There’s a huge obstacle blocking my ability to write. The obstacle’s name is addiction. An urge more powerful than anything I’ve known is controlling my every move. This urge is stronger than my need to check email. It’s more powerful than my love of anything sweet. I can turn my back on the bowl of Dove milk chocolates just yards away from my desk, but I cannot deny the magnetic pull of this new habit as it hijacks much of my time, both day and night. I’m a very organized person, always in control of my plans. It pains me to trash what I’ve planned to do and give in to this addiction. It is only now that I can own and admit I have a problem. I realize I want to recover and return to the me I’ve always known and I consider this public admission to be my first step toward returning to normalcy.
I believe my problem started the same day Pennsylvania began its Covid-19 vaccination rollout, although I don’t want to be trumpian and blame others for my current situation. The slide I’ve taken is my own fault.
You see, dear readers, I spend at least eighteen hours of every day and night in pursuit of an anti-Covid-19 vaccine appointment for myself and my spouse. I’m driven and determined to achieve my goal. I’ve worn grooves in my PC’s keys and come close to eroding the lower half of my iPad’s screen. The color of my mouse has changed from black to gray. When I close my eyes I see messages posted from the websites of health systems, public clinics, well known chain pharmacies, hospitals, state and county public health offices. The messages, usually written in red, say roughly the same thing. “Sorry. All appointment slots have been claimed. Try again later.”
But I don’t wait until later. I try again immediately. I persist, imbued with the spirit of a gambler who knows if she keeps pressing the same button on the slot machine, the cherries or sevens will align themselves sooner rather than later. Surely there are two vaccine-filled syringes within a fifty mile radius from home that bear our last names. Just one more search…one more search…
Whenever I dare take a break from my search, I hear Dr. Fauci’s voice telling America how worried he is about the virus’s variants, especially the one from the U.K. I worry that he’s substituted the word “variant” for “mutation.” Maybe the term “mutation” reminds us of horror movies we really shouldn’t have seen. The orange-flecked orb we keep seeing is frightening enough. What must the “variant” look like?
Day after day, night after night, I question whether I should feel disappointed that our registrations with the county’s health department place us among the first 35,000 registrants, or happy because we’re not at the tail end of the 161,000 names on the list.
Recently I joined a Facebook group filled with people in search of a vaccine appointment and others willing to help them/us. The mist surrounding my addictive behavior cleared long enough for me to see the altruism displayed by “the finders.” Many of those who posted wrote helpful suggestions for those of us who remain un-vaccinated and tethered to our computers, unaware of the time, the need to eat or drink something, or to go to the bathroom. Their desire to help others has survived the cut throat competition to get a stick in the arm. This kindness has been a soothing contact lens for my increasingly blurred vision.
Common sense (and my sister) assure me I’ll/we’ll succeed in our quest for vaccinations. The day will arrive when I’ll check all of my email before I surf to Walgreen’s, Rite Aids’s, CVS’s, or Weis’s websites. I’ll be able to shrug off my addiction to the endless search and return to more creative activities. I just need to be patient.
And on the whole, I’d rather be patient than be a patient.
Stay masked. Stay distant. Stay well, my friends.
© Renée Bess
Renée Bess is the author of five novels, and the co-story collector of the Goldie Award winning anthology, Our Happy Hours, LGBT Voices from the Gay Bars. She is a proud recipient of the 2019 Alice B. Readers Award. Renée’s new book, Between a Rock and a Soft Place, saw the light of day on February 1, 2021. www.reneebess.com