I finally got COVID-19 in December, first testing positive on the 16th. For Christmas my family was gathering at my parents’ home in Texas—my brother, his wife, and my precociously deranged seven-year-old niece were traveling from New York. I had one chance all year to see everybody together, and suddenly it looked like I’d miss it.
I would eventually test positive for 17 days, forcing me to cancel even a last-ditch shortened trip. I’d spend Christmas and New Year’s in isolation. When a brutal cold snap arrived on the 22nd, none of that had happened yet, but I was already in despair. Catastrophizing comes easily to me during the Official Merriest Time of the Year.
In the predawn hours of the 23rd, the temperature bottomed out at ten below, with a wind chill of minus 40. I couldn’t sleep, and I developed a perverse desire to subject myself to the worst of a Chicago winter. As I walked to the lakefront in the dark, the sliver of exposed skin around my eyes burned and went numb. Soon it began to feel stiff, resisting the motion of the muscles in my face. I turned east, looking out over the water, and waited for the black to turn blue.
The wind at my back had traveled 1,400 miles from the polar vortex. The point on the planet’s surface where I stood turned at 800 miles per hour toward the sun, 499 light-seconds away and itself moving at half a million miles per hour relative to the supermassive black hole at the galactic center.
The cloud cover lightened to indigo. My body wanted to survive. Friends had brought me food. I would keep on living.
best of chicago: city life
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