I’m Worried, by Jason Thompson

I’m worried my paranoia on COVID is getting to me. I’ve laid here three consecutive nights trying to act like I don’t feel that soreness in my throat, or that ache in my head. Secretly refusing to acknowledge that both are getting progressively worse.

How’s this for poetry in the motion of my life. Just as I began writing this story, the guy who sleeps with his head directly behind mine, on the other side of a three and a half foot high rust painted brick wall comes into my peripheral. Though I don’t recognize its him yet, as of that moment, he was only an inconsequential blurr of a figure over there to my left. For I am in the throes of my imagination, creating worlds with words laying here in this bed some time after midnight. When all of a sudden, the sound of what can only be described as water spilling onto the floor snatches my attention away from the intended story. It is such a strange and unusual sound to hear at this time of night. My curiosity is aroused more out of irritation at the interruption, but all’s the same, I still look up from thumbs tapping on screens to see what isn’t water spilling on the floor of this dorm, but rather vomit spilling from the guts of the guy who a moment ago was a blur of a figure in my peripheral but who is now standing front and center stage.

My immediate reaction is a mix of shock and worry. Shock at the act itself and worry at the possibility of air borne dangers. He who vomits takes another couple steps and vomits again. Double my worry. My instincts are to alert the working officer of the medical situation. Not wanting to walk along the same section of floor this man has just contaminated, I take the long route around, getting there just in time to see this guy vomit again in the bathroom before he makes it to the toilet.

I originally intended to write a story about my worry and concern over whether I can catch the virus twice. How these worries are contributed to or influenced by my isolatation in a living space that continues to have men brought into it who exhibiting clear and convincing covid symptoms. That story has been interrupted, side tracked, highjacked or crashed by a character not in the original script, but somehow has become the star of the show. A character both instigating my worry and at the same time proving my point.

During this pandemic, I’ve listened intently for the scientists on both CNN and FoxNews to tell me if I can catch it twice. Can I contract COVID, fully recover, but then contract it again? Or is it possible for the virus to remain dormant in my body, though I show no symptoms? Is my paranoia unwarranted as I live, breath, and sleep less then three feet away from a host of men who cough, and sneeze, and vomit repeatedly?

The one constant I’ve heard from the science is how dangerous the virus can be inside ‘prison or prison like environments.’ Or worse yet, that there is still much they and us don’t know about the virus or its long term affects. Be it there are no definitive answers, except for defensive measures such as social distancing, which is virtually impossible in a prison environment, definitely breeds my paranoia. Within the first weeks of this past Feburary, I became more ill then I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve contracted the flu virus many times over the years, but nothing even close to this. There were no warning signs of sniffles or cough, no. One day I was up running and the next I was down for the count. Bed ridden for damn near three days straight. No eating, no moving, no opening of my eyes for more then a few moments to stumble back and forth from the bathroom. All I did was sleep, drink water, use the bathroom, drink more water and sleep. Sound like COVID?

Then, a month later, I became afflicted with severe headaches. Well, I ought not use the word “these,” because there wasn’t more then one. It was the same headache, constant, lasting several days. I’d wake up with it, carry it as my companion throughout the day and then try to go to sleep with it. I say try because sleep didn’t always happen. Was this COVID too?

So it stands to reason my paranoia of catching it for a third time, while living within an isolated area with other people who are positively sick, is based in reality. Three strikes and I’m out? People tell me I’m the luckiest dude they ever met, and that’s cool, but I’m still not trying to press my luck against a killer that could be less then three feet away from me. Alive in a man so sick, he can’t even make it to the bathroom before he throws up.

The scientist recommend wearing a mask in public. So, what if I live in an environment that by its very nature and design falls under the definition of “in public?” Do I wear a mask 24/7? Even when I sleep? Realistically speaking, there are basically two moments in here when I experience the sense of not being in public. The first is when I’m outside working in the flower garden I started last year. Pulling weeds, grooming the beautiful blood red Day Lillies and as people joke with me about, playing in the dirt. There are long moments of transportation to another place that doesn’t recognize those who may be seen, there is just me. And the second is right now. Half sitting, half laying in the semi quiet and darkness of this dorm at 12:22 a.m. writing about whatever has intrigued my imagination.

I am willing to follow the science, but damn, masked up 24/7, thats a bit much. You already know it gets hot behind here. Wearing a mask helps to protect both me from other people and other people from me. But what if I look around my area of isolation at any given moment and there are more people not wearing a mask then those of us wearing one?

Today I received a message from our Warden, to whom I respect, answering guys questions as to when we will be able to receive visits again. Though she doesn’t quite know the answer, which is understandable, she is working on it and encourages us to continue to wash our hands, wear a mask and remain six feet apart when outside our living areas, i.e. the main halls of the institution. Great info. But what about when we are where we spend almost all our time, here in this dorm? Some guys are not wearing masks, ever! And are not concerned about keeping six feet of distance between them. Its basically back to ‘normal’ in here. Take for example the guy who crashed my story tonight. I haven’t ever seen this guy wear a mask. Even though he came into this isolated space a few days ago, barely looking alive and has moments ago uncontrollably expelled fluids from his intestines. And he still doesn’t have a mask on! Even as he sits on his bunk behind me, seemingly delirious. Should I be concerned about what is air borne from his intestinal fluids? Are their traces left behind on the floor after his half ass clean up job on aisle four? How far will wearing a mask get me amongst people who don’t wear one at all?

So, why do some guys not wear masks? Its hard to say, to suppose what another is thinking. I don’t think people necessarily act out of defiance or that they don’t care, perhaps they are of the mind of the president. Perhaps its easier emotionally or psychologically to choose to live in the matrix of ignorant bliss rather then be constantly reminded and aware of certain truths, facts, and the way it is now. The officials of this prison have clearly made wearing a mask a mandatory thing, but I’ve learned you can’t make someone do what they don’t want to do, not for any extended period of time. Perhaps some people believe these prison walls shelter them in a way that convinces them the world out there can’t touch or harm them in here. That somehow prison will protect them from the real world. Perhaps they think its over.

A commerical from the New York Times says, “we are safer when we are informed,” yet the scientist say there is still much we don’t know about this virus. Therefore, shouldn’t a cautious and protective mind set be taken? Especially by those of us who live in a environment such as this? I think so, but I am in the minority.

I’m tired now and I’m about to go to sleep. So should I keep my mask on? I mean, the guy who couldn’t even make it to the bathroom before he vomited three times is sleeping with his head less then three feet away from where mine is going to be. Is having my small fan tapped to the wall, blowing back towards him make me paranoid or cautious? I’m just saying, I woke up this morning with the addition of a stuffy nose and with my throat so dry I couldn’t even swollow without the help of water. Is it because of the change of season? God I hope so.

Jason Thompson
DOC #257-630

Categories: COVID-19, Jason Thompson

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