A Note to COVID Long-Haulers

Hungry ghosts, branching universes, and day-drinking

Photo by Tai’s Captures on UNSPLASH

Psst! Do you want to know a secret? I know why you feel so bad. Physically and mentally. You think you have lingering effects from your bout of COVID-19, and you likely do, but perhaps there’s something else at play here.

When you remember it, you recall two phases. The first part, the worst bit of it, you laid in bed for three weeks, sleeping day and night. Leaving the bed for only minutes to eat some small thing you’d asked your friend to bring you or to visit the bathroom.

For days, you didn’t brush your teeth, shower, or speak more than the bare minimum. You lived in a world of pain.

When you were conscious enough you wondered if you were dying.

Then, anticlimactically, you were up. Feeble at first, you would hobble down the long flight of wooden stairs, make your slow way outside, and began walking the neighborhood. There were still lingering mounds of snow here and there, stealthily hiding in some strategic bit of shade.

You huffed and puffed. Walking deliriously like a drunk man having a heart attack. It was misery and you promised you wouldn’t get this sick again. You would get your strength back. You would get the vaccinations, you would do a better job about wearing the damn masks, you would be grateful for not dying. The important thing was to not die.

Those were the two chapters of your memories about dancing with the virus.

Sick as hell and then a tedious recovery with you patiently trying to rebuild all that had been lost.

What if there’s more?

What if you didn’t almost die? What if you actually died?

In that case, the version of you that suffers now is one of two things.

First, it is some confused ghost wandering some immaterial hallways somewhere. The reality you perceive now is merely some construct based upon memories, expectations, and fears.

Second, the you that suffers now, that still struggles to walk in the heat, still wakes up frustrated at 6:30 every morning feeling like you hadn’t slept a bit, is some node in space-time where your reality split. In your old existence, you died. Then your friends and family said goodbye to you, grieved you, buried you, and moved on. But in your new reality, you struggle to move on from it. And you hurt because, despite the junction where one reality became two, you still remember all that pain, all those bizarre dreams, all that suffering, almost dying. You couldn’t remember dying. Would you?

So you’re a hungry ghost or some artifact in some cosmological branching new universe.

Someone once said, “The universe is not only stranger than we suppose, it is stranger than we CAN suppose.”

Maybe both things are happening. We are hungry ghosts wandering around some simulation of our previous lives trying to make things happen, exert our wills, trying to grow, to heal, to love, but we are stuck in a land without traction, without friction, without physical form and simultaneously we are real people living in a new universe, one in which we didn’t die, but yet we still carry that baggage. Maybe we never die. Not in any permanent sense. Maybe the universe continues to split and re-split, and the desperate ghost becomes more creative, crafty, more convincing in tailoring his simulacrum for believability?

All the seems certain to me now is that our inevitable endpoint, our birthright is madness. Who can bear all of this?

It’s only 10:38 AM, way too early to start drinking.

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