My stove burners were filthy. I had put off cleaning them for close to five weeks, but cleaning falls to the bottom of a to-do list when you live alone and have to convalesce in a pandemic. It was the first week of May, and my acute textbook Covid-19 symptoms — fever, chest pain, shortness of breath — had gone away weeks ago. Now I was standing in my kitchen, grateful to be putting my life back together again. Though there was one part of me that definitely hadn’t recovered yet.
I finished dinner and grabbed the scrubbing sponge to chip away at the layers of crud on the stove. I had just put the kettle on to boil moments before, but the way my mind was working it could have been years ago that I’d decided to make tea. When I consider just how close I was to moving the kettle over to put my hand in an open flame and pick up a searing-hot burner grate, my body still shakes. But at that point, a month after recovering from Covid-19, it was my reality. My brain was broken. This had been going on for close to two weeks.
There was the time I walked from my bedroom to the bathroom and, out of habit, washed my hands immediately (and quite thoroughly!) but then forgot to pee. Or the times a text from a friend would appear on my phone screen and I’d have no idea what she was talking about, even though I’d written to her just a few seconds before and she was responding to me. One Sunday morning, my boyfriend Matt was over. We were making breakfast, and I cracked the eggs into the carton rather than the bowl: the kind of mistake you call a “senior moment,” but only when you are actually a senior. “Are you okay?” he asked me. I laughed it off and said I didn’t know. Was I?
I had other lingering neurological symptoms as well. I was still putting far too much pepper on my food because otherwise, it didn’t taste like much. Sometimes there was ringing in my ears. My entire body ached, and I was so fatigued it felt like I was training for a triathlon. There were also migraines every single day that started midmorning and didn’t go away until I eventually fell asleep (if I was even able to sleep at all). My brain felt too large for my skull…