I’m waiting in line, when a guy one or two people ahead of me falls to the floor.
I didn’t see what happened but he just got back up and said he tripped, and we all relax. A minute or two later, he crashes to the ground like a tree, smacking his head so hard on the tile I was waiting for the pool of blood to appear. The sound was sickening. One lady said, “Dear God, I just can’t,” and left. A postal worker yelled from behind her plexiglass barrier that she was calling 911.
I kneel at his head, and check if he’s breathing. Years of first aid and first responder training kick in: I ask him his name, and as I look him over, I report what I see to the postal worker on the phone. Two huge bruises on his temple, one with the skin split. He can talk, and is responsive to my voice. He reaches for his mask to pull it down, but I stop him. “Sorry, I know, but you have to keep that on.” When he tries to get up, I firmly push his shoulders back to the ground.
I look around… and no one else has moved. The postal supervisor stands over us, so I say, “Can I get some gloves please?” He takes some from his pocket, and tosses them to me. I am careful not to touch the guy’s bleeding head wound. The first aid rule is, “If it’s sticky or wet and not yours, don’t touch it.”
The police and paramedics arrive, and I stay a few minutes to see if they have any questions. They are all set, asking his name and such, like I did. He says he has diabetes and isn’t sure when he last checked his sugar… and it all makes sense.
And then, as I bend over to get my bag, I hear them ask:
“Have you had a recent COVID test?”
“Yes, last night.”
“And was it positive or negative?”
“It was positive.”
I sank to the floor. Tears are suddenly streaming down my cheeks, into my mask, and a single sob escapes me. He has COVID. And he is here… in the fucking post office. With about six other customers on our designated safety circles, and a handful of postal workers. And he cares so little about the safety of others, that he thinks nothing of going out in public. A public where I am. I look at my hands… hands that, moments ago, touched this man, offered him help. Now I want to dip them in turpentine.
If I get COVID, my life falls apart. Thanks to my asthma, I often end up in the ER because of a simple case of bronchitis during the winter. If I have to quarantine as a single mother, my 3-year-old son either stays with his father for two weeks, or upstairs with my sister’s family where I will be able to hear him but not hold him. My sister is a midwife, and she sees newborn babies and expectant mothers. My brother-in-law also has asthma, and my dad has serious respiratory difficulties. All of us help out my grandparents, who are high-risk just due to their age. For my family, COVID would not just be missing work or having the flu. It could be devastating.
The police called the Board of Health, who called the Epidemiology Department in Boston, and they all agreed that my exposure was very low and my risk super low as well. (Less than 15 minutes, within less than six feet of a person, is considered low risk. Not sure how I feel about that definition.) The Board of Health woman gave me her cell number, to call or text if I had any questions. I don’t need to quarantine, and I will be fine. Ya know, except for all this emotional trauma.
So. I’m begging you. Wear your fucking masks. And if you have COVID… stay home. I can’t believe this has to be said, but clearly it does.
Think about other people for once, and stay the fuck home. Before your mistake is my tragedy.