So far, I’ve been spared the worst of it. One friend lost both her parents in quick succession to COVID last year, their funerals largely virtual. My aunt can’t carry a bag of groceries up a flight of stairs without needing to go lie down, exhausted, months after her mild case. My doctors have a haunted quality in their eyes.
I’m thankful, of course, that my wait for a transplant is over. I feel the gratitude pump through my body with each beat of this foreign heart. I’m on immunosuppressant drugs, but people don’t understand why I’m not over the pandemic. They’re sick of it. Even if it kills me, I guess.
“You said the average survival rate of heart transplant recipients is only nine years. You don’t have very much time left. You’re young! Enjoy yourself. What kind of life is this?” my mom asks over FaceTime.
“A life,” I answer.
It’s not that I want to be shut up in my apartment. I find myself daydreaming of the day it’s safe to play golf, which I’ve never played, unless you count a few rounds of putt putt when I was a kid. I’m a thirty-five-year-old woman, and all I want to do is go to an Eagles concert. I’m like a whole other person, since the transplant. I have all of these impulses to go out, but I can’t take the risk. Based on my survival statistics, I guess the mid-life crisis is coming a little late.
I know I should be thankful I can work from home. How many people like me are out there bagging groceries and driving Ubers? Exposed.
Every morning I check the hospital numbers. Sometimes a vaccinated person dies, and I worry. How many of them are like me? Responsible, but immunocompromised. Vulnerable, but, unlike me, are unable to hole up and hunker down?
I should be grateful, really.
I should be.
Instead, I’m crying into my heart-healthy whole wheat cereal topped with berries.
I’m concerned I sound like I’m whining, but I want you to know this is hard. It feels like people would rather go clubbing than keep me alive.
So now I’m a different kind of heart broken. Sorry. Bad pun. I couldn’t help myself. I’ve gained a sudden affinity for Dad jokes.
I keep myself busy. I’ve given up takeout to offset grocery delivery fees, and I’ve dedicated myself to making at least one new recipe a week. I know I’m a cliché, but my favorite has been sourdough. I’m pretty sure people have fallen off the trend, but I’m still going strong.
I love my starter. You have to feed it, so it’s almost like having a goldfish or something. I’ve named him George.
I hate throwing away bits of starter after I feed George, so a lot of my new recipes have been things that use up the discard: English muffins, biscuits, crackers. I couldn’t possibly eat it all, so I leave treats for the delivery people. Making my grocery list helps me to keep my mind off things.
Don’t worry, I know George isn’t alive. Well, he is, in the sense that yeast is alive, technically. But it’s a joke. I swear I’m not cracking up from lack of face-to-face human interaction.
The sourdough at least helped me curb the impulse to get a pandemic puppy. I would have really enjoyed the company, and the forced walks would have done me good, but they say that puppies should meet, what, one hundred new people in their first year? When I die, a shelter would be left with a neurotic basket case. No, better to stick with George.
Instead of getting a real pet, I keep my TV on for company while I work.
There’s this commercial that keeps playing, one of those medication ads with a cheery montage of shiny people laughing during mundane activities. One of the scenes has a dad and his son playing catch in the backyard. When I see that clip, it’s just a few seconds, and it’s meaningless, really, but when I see the clip, I think of the lyrics to “Cat’s in the Cradle,” you know that “they grow up so fast” song by Harry Chapin? Well, the lyrics float through my mind, unbidden, and the tears start falling because I won’t be coming home, son, even though I am home. All the time. It makes absolutely no sense, because I’ve never had kids. Never even entertained the thought. Really, what millennial can afford to have kids? On purpose? Also, I’m not exactly trying to grow a human on a busted heart.
Can I tell you a secret? Promise you won’t laugh.
It’s the man who donated my heart. He’s a part of me now. Hah. Get it?
Yes, I’ve talked to my doctor about it. He said these kinds of feelings are common, and he can’t legally tell me anything about my donor’s family without their consent. When I told him I need, need to find the donor’s son and tell him about his father’s regrets, my doctor said he could tell me that my heart donor wasn’t even a man.
But I know he just said that to get me to stop digging.
It won’t work. I’ve got the Internet.
And at least a little bit of time left.