Thursday, June 24, 2021

Life & Style

Love in the Time of COVID-19

I lay down on the table and wait for the needle stick. It’s not bad at all. Just a little pinch. No, I’m not being tested for COVID-19. Not yet. I’m giving blood. I give blood every eight weeks if my iron level permits.

The day I give blood is before COVID-19 fully sinks its teeth into the state. Things are still rolling along normally. There are crowds on the local green, crowds at the local pubs. People are gathered in groups talking. People are hugging hello. Then things start to change and once they do, they change quickly. Venues and businesses are like dominoes falling. A closing here. A closing there. Then a closing everywhere.

But on this day as I let the blood flow, things are pretty normal. Even at this stage, though, there’s something in the air that I can sense. It’s like when you can smell snow. The flakes are not coming down yet, but you know by looking up at woolly clouds and sniffing that distinctive crisp scent that snow is on its way. Or maybe it’s more like that moment when you’re in the ocean and a big wave is looming over you. The wave rises, crests, and holds a moment. There’s a split-second when it seems to almost quiver before it comes crashing down.

The lady who just stuck my arm and is setting up the blood bag tells me, “On Monday we’re going to start taking temperatures before people are even allowed to come in the door.”

“Really?” I ask.

“Yes. If the temperature is over a certain number, we have to turn them away.”

This makes a lot of sense. Can’t be too careful.

As the days slide on like an escalator down the rabbit hole, more and more changes are made. Each one makes a lot of sense. The virus can only be stopped if it can’t be spread. New expressions are taken on into everyday use: Flatten the curve, social distancing, cyber–happy hour.

Never in my life did I think I’d attend a cyber–happy hour, but before long the only watering hole for me is my own living room. No Uber needed. Just my laptop, a glass, and some hooch.

I miss real happy hours.

Whatever I can do to flatten the curve is fine with me, though. I don’t want to get COVID-19 and I don’t want to give it to anyone else, either. In 3rd-grade vernacular, I don’t want to be a “cootie carrier” and if staying home bored means I’m not a cootie carrier, so be it. There are far worse things than being bored.

I call my 80-year-old mom every day. We ask each other how we’re doing and we each say, “I’m hanging in there.” We ask each other if we’re scared. We each say, “Yeah.” I tell her that I made it to the library before it closed and took out a 1,474-page book. (Stephen King’s IT. I won’t even go near The Stand right now.) My brother in New Jersey and his family keep in regular touch. We all talk about when we’ll see each other again. We have no idea when that will be.

It’s in these days of isolation and fear that you become acutely aware of those you love, even if you can’t go see them. Especially if you can’t go see them.

There is one place I will go, however, even if the virus is still upon us like a rogue wave. Come hell, high water, but no high temperature, I’ll go. Before I leave the blood drive, while things are still normal and no one has started to social distance, I take pen in hand. Leaning over a piece of paper with no thoughts yet of using hand sanitizer as soon as I get in my car, I sign up for the next drive.

Juliana Gribbins is a writer who believes that absurdity is the spice of life. Her book Date Expectations is winner of the 2017 Independent Press Awards, Humor Category and winner of the 2016 IPPY silver medal for humor. Write to her at Read more of her columns at

Juliana Gribbins is the Columnist for Zip06. Email Juliana at .

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