On the first day of quarantine my true love gave to me . . .
I am not given to hallucinations, or wild imaginings, or ruminations on the supernatural. I like to think my countenance is of the earth, bound by the walls of my own design. But I had a strange dream last night, one that defies explanation, one that . . .
Well, you can decide for yourself. I dreamed I was visited by a ghost.
The apparition, soft and gentle in appearance, took my hand and led me through an open door quite new to my house, one that I somehow had never encountered before.
Before me lay a grand staircase cascading into a festively decorated room. Garland rope beaded with glowing poinsettia pin lights spiraled like candy canes down the banister to the floor below. A large, fragrant Fraser Fir sparkled in white lights and suspended crystal ornaments that reflected flashing shards all about the room. Everywhere joyous people milled about, laughing, embracing, warmly shaking hands. Finely dressed men kissed luxuriously gowned women on their cheeks, and whispered into their ears when they could not be heard above the merry din of what was a most joyous holiday party.
I know this place, I smiled. I have seen it on TV.
“Yes,” said the spirit. “It is the White House. No one is wearing a mask. They don’t believe in such foolishness.”
But spirit, what has this to do with me? What do I care if they thin their herd and decrease their surplus population?
“Do you not see that man over there? The important one. The one with the orange face. See him embracing the elegant woman in the sleek gold dress? Well she is married to a man who’s brother will be taking NJ Transit into New York City in a couple of days. They are a very close family.”
“Your daughter,” said the spirit waving his hand in explanation, “will be sitting right in front of him.”
But my daughter is home with us, I objected. She came home from college before Thanksgiving. She is perfectly fine. As are her brothers.
“Hey, I am just the spirit of Covid Past,” said the ghost, shrugging its slight shoulders. “That was a week ago. Your daughter feels fine because she is young and healthy and except for a little sniffle, is asymptomatic.”
It is just a bug, that’s all. A big bah hum bug if you ask me. Go away!
And with that I rolled over defiantly and yanked the bed covers high over my head, exposing my bare feet from beneath.
But slumber was not to be in this moment. The bed rocked, and I angrily threw back the covers to find a large, burly figure with a fiery, red-spiked wreath on his head urgently shaking the bed to roust me.
“I am the Ghost of Covid Present,” boomed the spirit loudly.
Oh good. I love presents.
“Not this one you don’t,” said the overweight apparition. And without hesitation he dropped heavily on my chest, pinning me hopelessly to the bed.
Get off, I struggled to say, coughing sharp needles. I can’t breathe.
“Yes, that’s the point”, he said, thumping me behind the ears. “Does your head hurt too?”
“Maybe you shoulda listened to Fauci,” continued the fat ghost. “Instead of selfishly being with your family on Thanksgiving.”
Oh spirit, please, no more! Tell me this is not my demise.
“That is not mine to decide,” said the spirit of the present, mercifully rising. Then he pulled out a large shiny coin, and flipped it high into the air.
“Heads I win, tails you lose . . .”
But before the rotating coin could hit the ground, a flash of lightning pierced the room, revealing a dark, foreboding shadow standing before me where the rotund ghost had just stood. It spoke not a word, but beckoned me with a long bony finger to follow into the darkness.
We entered a distant place in which dim lights from a myriad of electronic monitors winked and glowed around me. The rhythmic whirring of some scuba-like apparatus filled the room with the slow cadence of breath. A metallic beep, like a pulse, chimed short and clear from one of the machines. Beneath it, under a tangle of tubes and rumpled blankets in a stark bed all alone, lay a patient.
I trembled with foreboding before the specter I feared the most. Oh Spirit of Things to Come, are these the shadows of what will be, or what may be?
The sky cracked again, and I found myself shivering uncontrollably in cold, driving snow, in front of a large trailer, one of several, stationed in a parking lot. Its bare steel shell, kept cold inside by humming refrigeration units nearby, stood like a mausoleum in front of me.
Oh spirit, I cried, shamelessly plagiarizing Charles Dickens, I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.
And then, just like that, I woke, wide-eyed and drenched in sweat. My fever had broken. I was back within the walls of my own design. I felt light as a feather, giddy as a schoolboy.
I threw open the sash to find a deep blanket of clean, fresh snow over the yard from the harsh Nor'easter the night before. That must have been what kept me awake all night. A young man was shoveling snow beneath me.
You there! I called to the strapping young lad below me. What day is it? Is it Christmas day?
“Dad?” called up the young man quizzically from our driveway below. A remarkable young man. A delightful young man. “Have you been drinking again?”
On the twelfth day of quarantine my true love gave to me . . .
With apologies to Charles Dickens, I wish everyone a healthy and safe holiday season. And to remember that doctors and nurses all over the country will be selflessly working without break so that the rest of us may celebrate our continued good health in this troubled time.
No matter your faith,
May the force be with you.