Wake-Up Call

First published in Contemporary Haibun Online 16:3, December 2020. Originally written in June and August of 2020.

                persistent rain—
                as I leave for the clinic
                my daughter asks
                have you studied for
                your COVID-19 test?

I had my test today, required in advance of an unrelated procedure at the hospital in two days. At the clinic entrance I answered screening questions (any symptoms in the last 24 hours, we know the drill), had my temperature taken, washed my hands with sanitizer, and would have been offered a mask if I hadn’t already been wearing one. I checked in for my appointment and was met by two nurses wearing full protective gear, including gloves, special masks, and head and face shields. Their cheerful smiles and upbeat greeting calmed me. One of them asked me to face a wall, lower my mask, and blow my nose thoroughly, then discard the tissue in a receptacle provided (with a foot-operated opener). The same nurse told me to turn around to face her and tilt my head back slightly, with my mask now positioned to cover just my mouth. She extended a swab into my left nostril, rubbing it around several times, and then inserted the same swab into my right nostril for another few circular rubs. It wasn’t as deep as I had feared. Then she placed the swab into a vial held out by the second nurse, and told me that the results, within 24 hours, would appear on MyChart online. When scheduling the appointment in the first place, I was told they would phone me if the results were positive. I thanked the nurses for their work as I left.

                in the quiet parking lot
                after my virus test . . .
                I sit for five minutes
                as rain continues to fall
                before driving home

The next morning, my phone rang. Caller ID said it was the hospital. I gasped. For a few seconds I thought they were calling to tell me my coronavirus test was positive, because they wouldn’t call unless it was positive. I pondered this new and stark reality, and then I picked up the phone. They were just reminding me of my other medical test the next day.