⒈ Shower Head Essay

Monday, June 14, 2021 5:35:31 AM

Shower Head Essay

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He tests negative for the flu. Then, because he is considered high risk with what his medical chart calls severe asthma that sent him to the emergency room with an acute attack a few months ago, he is tested for Covid, the disease caused by the coronavirus — just days before a national shortage of testing supplies emerged and the restrictions were tightened further. A friend scours the nearby stores and drops off a bunch of bodega packets of Tylenol. Another finds a bottle at a more remote pharmacy and drops it off, a golden prize I treasure against the feverish nights to come. I find T lying on his side, reading an article about the surge in confirmed cases in New York State.

He is reading stories of people being hospitalized, people being put on ventilators to breathe, people dying, sick with the same virus that is attacking him from the inside now. We stopped after three episodes. That time, when we would sit on the couch watching something together, is behind us. For days she and her classmates have received instructions about what to expect, turning administrator and teacher directives into endless memes, feeds filling with repeated admonitions — this is regular school. This is not vacation. I start an email to her principal, guidance counselors, and teachers. I am texting the doctor. He is too exhausted, too weak, to answer all the missives winging to him at all hours.

He will not take it off. CK and I confine ourselves to the half bathroom, the one with the litter box, which she is now in charge of. She is right. I am consumed with trying to keep us safe. I wipe down the doorknobs, the light switches, the faucets, the handles, the counters with disinfectant. I swab my phone with alcohol. I wash all our towels again and again. Then I do the same. Twice, in the first week of the illness, I eased him into an Epsom-salt bath. But not since then. He is too weak. It would be too much. There is no way. When he shuffles down the hall from the bedroom to the bathroom, he lists against the wall. He splashes water on his face in the bathroom, and that has to be enough.

I run through possibilities. I can nurse her too. I show her how to do more things, where things go, what to remember, what to do if — what if T is hospitalized? What if I am? Could a year-old be left to fend for herself at home alone? How would she get what she needed? Could she do it? For how long? The one thing I know is that I could not send her to my parents, 78 years old and nearby on Long Island.

They would want her to come, but she could kill them, their dear grandchild coming forward to their embrace, radioactive, glowing with invisible incubating virus cells. Not them. Someone else would have to take her, someone who has a bedroom and a bathroom where she could isolate and be cared for. Someone would. I lie awake at 4 a. We do a video call on one of these nights with a New York University emergency-room doctor, one of who have been mobilized to do urgent-care video calls with patients who have flu-like symptoms. She tells us that they are seeing this illness run two to three weeks.

He is not. When I opened the bedroom door to check on him and find him sleeping, I tiptoe closer and bend to make sure he is alive, to make sure he is still breathing, as I used to do when CK was an infant, asleep in her crib. On one of the worst nights, I stay next to the bed, rubbing his body through the piled-on blankets, trying to comfort him. I hear myself start to hum, low, the only song I would — the song both my mother and my grandmother used to sing to me. We both wear disposable gloves. I put my hand through the crook of his arm, and we slowly start for the clinic. The day before was one of the harder ones, with T lightheaded and nauseated most of the day, eating only if I spoon-fed him, coughing more and using his albuterol inhaler more, then coughing more again.

He was soaked in sweat in the morning and by evening was lying curled up, looking apprehensive. We talked to his doctor on speakerphone. Many patients, he said, seem to begin to feel better after a week. But others, the more serious and severe cases, take a downturn, and the risks rise as the virus targets the lungs. Pneumonia is a common next step in that downward progression. We read about it in the patients admitted to the hospital. Now the doctor called in a prescription for antibiotics to the CVS pharmacy that would close in less than an hour. I asked if he would get oranges too. T has been accepting a little fresh-squeezed juice or cut-up pieces, and we were down to one last orange. They suddenly seemed an unimaginably exotic treat. The doctor told us to go back to the clinic for chest X-rays first thing in the morning.

Now we slowly walk the three blocks, T coughing behind his mask. As we move along the street, we see some other people too — fewer than a few days ago before Governor Andrew Cuomo directed New Yorkers to stay indoors as much as possible. Some joggers go by. Just over a week ago, that was still me. A few are wearing their own masks, but they are walking upright, striding along, using them as protection for themselves.

The mother briefly introduced me, sat down next to her husband, removed her gloves and looked across the table. None of us spoke. I looked out of a window framed with cafe curtains while the family stared at me, like some member of an exotic species, wearing second-hand clothes and a bespoke although butchered haircut, courtesy of my grandmother, who lived next door to us. Credit: Judith Green. My mother had been told that I would be away from home for a week. When I did not return on the expected date, she became concerned and visited the school. One week became two and I was some distance from home, fearful that I would not see my family again. In the time I was away, I experienced a holiday that I did not quite expect.

On the day I arrived at Rosanna, my cardboard suitcase, containing my clothes and a book I had packed, was burned in an incinerator in the backyard. The next day I was taken to the dentist, where all my back teeth were removed, before a visit to the barber to have my head shaved. I had no rights and they had everything. My mum went to the school a second time and demanded that I be returned home.

While I was away, I became so fearful that I would not be going home that I memorised the Rosanna address, with a plan to run away and report the kidnappers to the police. I never forgot the address. Many years later when I was visiting a friend in Heidelberg, I realised that the Rosanna home was close by. I drove into the street and parked outside the triple-fronted house. It was winter and the garden looked a little sad. I stood on the footpath, mulling over questions that had occupied me for more than 40 years. I wanted to know why the Rosanna family had wanted me so desperately. I wanted to know why my head was shaved and my clothing burned.

Most of all, I wanted to ask how it was that a family incapable of conveying affection to each other, let alone a child that was not their own, would want to take him from a loving family and keep him for themselves. I walked along a pathway, rang the doorbell and buried my hands in my pockets. After a second ring of the bell, the door opened. The wallpaper was unmistakable, if a little tatty. The cream colour had turned to a smoky yellow and the dark patten was scuffed and faded. I looked to the old woman standing in front of me. She wore a chenille dressing-gown and what appeared to be a dark wig. She frowned and clutched the gown to her chest, wary of the stranger on her doorstep. The Age is a festival partner. The Booklist is a weekly newsletter for book lovers from books editor Jason Steger.

Get it delivered every Friday. At 5, far from home, my head was shaved, my back teeth removed. Please try again later. The Age. By Tony Birch August 13, — 2.

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