The end of 2020

In early September the “second wave” of Covid was just about to crash over Europe. But with the long easy low-Covid summer fresh in my mind I took a trip to Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic. Kristin and I share a small space (if you told me we’d be locked up in it for a year I might have gotten a bigger one!) and so it is very desirable to make extra space for each other sometimes. It was a wonderful getaway, all the more precious because of the subsequent lockdown. I had planned to stay for two weeks but then the second wave hit the Czech Republic and cases swiftly trebled. I came home early and good thing too because the cases kept on trebling for a while.

It’s a funny feeling fleeing a disease, especially one that is not too likely to kill me. Fleeing danger by train in Europe is traditionally a more ominous and a more romantic affair than that. But fleeing Covid is still fleeing death, even if in miniature. On the train back there were maskless Czech rednecks in camo pants drinking beer at 9am. Laughable elements of local color before, but now they looked to me like the grim reaper himself.

A few weeks after, I developed pain and a fever. Unable to reach my doctor by phone, I went to the emergency room. By the next morning I was having emergency surgery for an abscess. And then 6 weeks later, with the second Covid wave finally reaching Germany, I returned to the hospital for a second scheduled surgery. I was so worried about Covid, but the abscess was far more likely to kill me. The first surgery was also more likely to kill me. As was the second. The killers can come from surprising directions.

Ahead of surgery they clearly explain all the most likely ways you might die. They keep asking you if your teeth are loose at all because they might get jammed down your lungs along with the breathing tube. On the gurney, with a head full of all these warnings, I breathed deeply as instructed. And then I had an unpleasantly warm and dizzying experience as something almost palpable rushed to my head but was then immediately cut off by… by nothing. Really nothing. Nothing I could describe because I wasn’t even there. And then I became aware of myself again, as if newly born but with memories from my old life, shaking and confused from the timeless sleep and they explained to me that it “went well”.

Oddly, it wasn’t a miserable experience. I’ll spare you the details of the in-hospital recovery. It was some awful stuff, really awful. But after the apprehension of surgery there was relief. Also, at least at first, I was very very high. The kind nurse explained that my narcotic setting was “overweight party drinker”.

As the drugs wore off I discovered that my body didn’t work right. The German health professionals lacked the language skills to explain my situation to me, and as I adjusted to this new reality I had a few emotional breakdowns. But mostly it was thankfulness. Little miracles like going for a walk. An open window and a nice breeze. My first real meal after a few days. It was fish. It was the worst food I’ve ever had in my entire life, and it too was wonderful. And then after a week I got to go home and everything was even more wonderful.

Recovery has meant that for two months I’ve hardly left my block, walking a few hundred meters at most. The biggest trips were back to the hospital for checkups, some 2 km away. But mostly I just laid on my side on the couch for two whole months. Its not really my style. While everyone else has been locked down by Covid I have been locked down by recovery. I’ve continued to take delight in all the little things. “Yay leftovers, we don’t have to cook”. “Yay we finished the leftovers, we get to cook” and so on. And then bam! Suddenly it’s late December and I’m almost fully healed.

And the joy of the little things is really starting to wear off.

But as I continue to heal I get to do some bigger things. We rented a car and took the f’ing Autobahn out to Quedlinburg. We were driving 140–170 kmh and passing trucks like they were holding still while at the same time getting passed by other cars like WE were holding still. It was great! Quedlinburg was cool too.

I’m hoping that what remains of my joy in the little things will last until we get to do some big things again. Off the top of my head, I’d like to see my friends and family, drink in very crowded beer and wine halls, bike across Europe, row down a river for days, and I dunno, maybe mud wrestle or something. New years resolution: do a ton of random shit.

Oh, and I really need to get into shape. It’s a normal resolution to make, a cliché even, but this year I mean it. I’ve been laying on my side for months!

Kutná Hora

Berlin, Prenzlau, Quedlinburg