I had thought that actually getting the coronavirus would bring clarity — that there would be some satisfaction in meeting the enemy, feeling its spectral hands around my lungs. No such luck. Uncertainty is the hallmark of Covid-19. Even its origins are murky: wet markets or the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control? Who knows, and who would ever believe the Chinese government anyway? When you’ve got it, the sense of medieval unknowing only deepens. Is this definitely it? Will it get worse? Will it come back?
My version of the virus began with a nasty headache and a grubby feeling of unease, after which I threw up on the bathroom floor. ‘That’s disgusting, Mum,’ said my four-year-old son, handing me a towel with a look of patronising distaste.
I’ve never known a bug treat its victims so differently. My friends have reported stabbing sore throats, a loss of taste and smell, and numbness in their fingertips. The Huazhong university in Wuhan has just updated its list of official first symptoms which now includes: headache, dizziness, muscle inflammation, fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and coughing.
One slight but sad effect of this great variation in symptoms is that it makes phoning friends to share Covid stories peculiarly unsatisfying. ‘Weren’t the muscle aches awful? Oh, you didn’t get them. Nope, no sore throat for me. Oh well.’
That evening, as I lay on the sofa, a happy thought occurred to me: if this was the virus, then my husband, who works 16-hour days as a rule, would have to come home. I let myself imagine a fortnight in bed with ‘mild symptoms’, chatting to Dom and son through an open door. More fool me.
My husband did rush home to look after me. He’s an extremely kind man, whatever people assume to the contrary.