Twirl me about, and twirl me around
Let me grow dizzy and fall to the ground
And when I look up at you looking down
Say it was only a dream.
— the prophet mary chapin carpenter
The phone rings. It’s her.
“I think I’m having a stroke,” she says. “What should I do?”
And you hand the phone to Mo. Because you’re busy working on a deadline and can’t be bothered with such things.
It’s the worst-case scenario. You can’t leave her alone, but you can’t risk being exposed to the virus. The emergency room is the COVID equivalent of bat guana under the Congress Street bridge. If you go there, it will find you.
You and Mo discuss it. You had always agreed you couldn’t take her to the ER, no matter what. It’s too dangerous. And so, you don’t.
She’s able to find the one other person left who can drive her, a former neighbor she still talks with occasionally. You make sure she takes her cellphone so you can get updates. And then you wait.
Twelve hours later, she’s home again. A CT scan, blood work, physical tests, a doctor she is certain was 16 years old but had dreamy eyes. She’s in bed by 2 a.m., at home and not in the hospital.
You call the next morning. She’s weak, and scared, but OK. She says she has to give up her beloved Wisconsin cheese, something you know will never actually happen. More tests scheduled, more uncertain days, a gnawing feeling that this might be the one that brings down the curtain on a magical 91-year stage production.
You take her a McDonald’s burger. She looks a little brighter, the color back in her face, the sparkle in her eyes. You talk for a while and apologize for letting her down.
This was your plan? Let her die to make sure you don’t?
You and Mo make a decision. Screw it. You can all die together if that’s what is needed. Better to go down doing the right thing than live forever in fear. Next time, you’ll be there for her. With cheese.
You wake up. Why did it take you so long to wake up?
Say it was only a dream …