Flying with Disease

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Flying with Disease

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Flying home from a tournament, where my team suffered defeat after defeat, I was not aware of much outside of my muscle aches, my mental and emotional exhaustion, and the bitter taste of failure in my mouth. The first twenty minutes of the flight was uneventful, just the occasional cry of a child, the subtle rock of the plane in turbulence, the dim light by which I read my book.
Soon, as the turbulence died down, and the child fell asleep in the arms of its mother, every single person on the plane became distinctly aware of the continuous coughing of a lady wearing her mask. I had forgotten to grab one for the flight home, despite every intention of wearing one, and nobody else on the flight had one. Conversations noticeably died down as the coughing continued, and even seemed to get more frequent and intense. I put down my book, donned my headphones, and tried to watch a movie to drown out the noise. People shot furtive glances at the lady in question, all of us wondering from the sound of her cough, if she had Covid.
The more I heard it, the angrier I felt, and the more afraid I got. I am an athlete and young, so would likely be fine if I caught Covid. However, my girlfriend and little sister are both high risk, and I did not want to risk exposing them. I managed to calm myself as to not make a scene, worthless at this point tens of thousands of feet in the air. I could not know the situation of the lady, whether she had a choice to be on this flight, or had to return home, attend a funeral, or whatever other reasons she may have had to go on a flight, sick, while there was a global pandemic. All I can tell you is that from the sounds of uncomfortable shifting in seats, the murmurs pointed at the lady, and the otherwise silence of the formerly talkative plane, nobody felt entirely safe or comfortable.
I ended up catching Covid-19, and unknowingly giving it to my girlfriend who I live with. Despite having to take her to the hospital briefly, we both ended up fine. Whether our cases of Covid were from the lady on the plane or somebody else, I will never know. But the sound of incessant coughing during this pandemic still has the same effect wherever I go, creating a perceptible unease.

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This item was submitted on August 20, 2022 by Kiernan Wood using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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