I wake up with the alarm, I realize two of my three girls are in bed with me. I push the youngest away, cover her back up with the quilt and sleepwalk my way to the bathroom.
In an hour, the coffee pot is half over, idlis steamed, cut, smothered in molaga podi, and packed into lunch boxes and the rice cooling for it to be mixed with the vegetables Saathi is sauteeing.
The first of the three to wake up is my oldest. She yawns, downs her morning beverage and heads back to her room. The next comes down coughing, a little too exaggerated for my liking. She has been muttering about how her classmates are taking the day off Friday. Just to be safe, I take her temperature, check her oxygen saturation, and set down her mug before her. She is either really good at faking or really not well.
I send her to change and get ready.
Saathi is uneasy with my dismissal of her cough. He talks about the ethics of sending a child with a cough, no fever, or any other symptoms to school in the age of COVID.
I cave and spend the rest of the morning scouring rapid test appointments. I find one for late in the evening. By now, the lunch boxes are back to the kitchen counter, the schoolbags back where they usually go after school. I let Laddu lie in and let the twins know they are not going to school. Saathi decides to work from home as well. The day is slow. The what-ifs are all I can think about. There is one unvaccinated child in the house. If one child tests positive, do we all get tested even if asymptomatic? Do we quarantine? What does that look like? Do kids miss two weeks of school?
What are the odds this is going to happen every few weeks because the weather is changing and there are other nasty viruses that make their debut this time of the year?
I am tired of the viruses (virii?). I am tired of this constant worry that hounds me. I am tired of following the rules and yet, paying for things over which I have no control over. I am mad at this world. I am mad at so many things.
I spend my day trying my hardest to focus on work, on chores that need mindless engagement. This waiting and watching is hard. It will be the end of the weekend before we know anything.
Six days after the first symptoms, two tests from two different locations, one test comes back negative. The kids have missed three days of school and will likely miss a day more at least. I cannot imagine going through this anxiety every few weeks with every sickness the children bring back home.
Eighteen months and counting into the pandemic we are yet to have reliable, easily accessible, timely testing. We don’t have rapid tests at schools, pediatrician offices, and homes. How do we track and contain things we cannot collect data on?
My hopes for a better world grow dimmer by the day.