The fever came on and off for a couple of days, mainly spiking in the evening. It wasn’t particularly bad – some hot and cold periods, never more than 39˚, some sweats, stomach cramps, a bit of a headache.
Menna was worried though she wouldn’t say so. She is the family doctor and all responsibility for anything medical is immediately outsourced to her. I sit passively like a pudding (tiramisu!) while she sticks thermometers in my armpit, changes my dressings, prods my appendix, tells me to shower and opportunistically cuts my toenails.
While she discounts options, calculates probabilities and works on her diagnosis, I meander through a lazy series of scenarios and questions. What if it was coronavirus? Would I have to go to hospital? Here? Salinas? Would we be deported from Spain altogether? How would we even get back home? You can’t fly or take the ferry when you’re infectious. Drive then? I have a nice daydream about the insurance company springing for a private jet to repatriate us, realising we have no house to go back to and being forced to put us up in a nice hotel to recuperate. Then I remember about the pandemic exclusion clause that I found in the small print which pretty much renders our expensive travel policy totally invalid.
Is the whole family about to fall ill with this? Will the incubation period mean that our infections are staggered, each one of us falling sick two weeks apart, drawing the whole thing out for a couple of months? What if Menna herself gets ill? Then we would be really screwed. She is the one who really keeps this leaky vessel fuelled and floating.
We would have to do contact tracing too, that would be fun. I think about trying to identify and reach out to everyone who was in Dreamsea, everyone in the ferry too. All those hundreds of intersections and interactions over the last weeks, like a game of tag where each touch leaves a radioactive afterglow. I visualise a wispy cobweb stretching across Europe, stretching and pulsating, the lines lengthening, splitting, unravelling, reforming; viral particles flowing through the strands as a sinister green illumination; nodes glowing; breakaway elements floating off to spawn new clusters that then grow and bond and strengthen and then radiate further, carrying the viral load out into the world. And imagine this new green network of ours transposed over thousands of other existing viral webs, in all the colours of the spectrum, together forming a deep-rooted, multi-layered tangle that grips and chokes the whole globe. Surely mankind is doomed.
I wake. What if we needed to go into quarantine and isolate, then where would we go? Can we stay here in this tiny apartment? Could I bear a wall of Brad Pitt staring at me for two weeks? (Sure I could! He’s an extraordinarily good-looking guy). But it’s probably already booked out to someone else next week and it’s going to be very difficult to find any new accommodation as a confirmed covid case. I would be a social pariah! I suppose I could manage a couple of weeks sweating the fever out in a little tent alone up in the dunes. The family could leave me messages and packages of food outside. I would talk with the gulls, monitor the environmental impact of the Avilés factory emissions, carve strange evocative sculptures from driftwood. Is the booking deposit on our next camp refundable?
Menna discounted coronavirus. The fever pattern wasn’t right. The abdominal pains weren’t consistent with Covid. There was no cough or secondary symptoms.
Was it a recurrence of endocarditis then? I had gone through some weeks of fevers a few years ago before finally getting diagnosed with bacterial infection – right in my frickin heart. On that occasion I spent seven weeks on a drip in the Royal Brompton hospital. That would be way worse than coronavirus! I imagined seven weeks in a Salinas hospital. I’d definitely improve my Spanish and the kids would be very accomplished surfers by the time I got out. Menna may well have run off with a salsa instructor or something by then though. The suspicion of another complicated illness sends her a little wild-eyed and manic. She was the one who really took the brunt of my last illness with all the daily hospital visits, looking after both kids solo, managing her work shifts and giving constant updates to a wide community of panicked friends and family. No way she’s sticking around for another one.
Menna eventually reaches a diagnosis: “You have some non-specific virus that isn’t endocarditis and isn’t coronavirus. It doesn’t seem particularly bad.” I am crushed.
I have forgotten that the world is still full of the same old nondescript illnesses that were always there. They still come and go with the same frequency, they have the same impact, they’ve just been pushed out of the limelight. They aren’t interesting.
I feel totally fine by Wednesday. The fever is gone but the questions remain. I realise that life out on the road leaves us in more of a precarious position than I had believed. It is disconcerting. This is a time where there are no clear answers, the old protocols have eroded and with them the security of delegated responsibility. The rule book is being redrafted and in the meantime we will just need to figure things out as we go along.
We all go to a remote beach and explore some spectacular caves. From a responsible distance, we talk to an old fisherman gathering limpets out on the rocks. “Everything has changed now” He tells us, “the seas were full of life before, but now you see nothing. It is very hard. In twenty years it has all gone” He waves expansively at a black smudge that runs across the cliff face. “That is oil pollution there.”
Once humankind has been decimated by coronavirus perhaps the limpets will all come back, I think. And if we need to isolate in the meantime, those caves will do nicely.