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  • Kerry Chaput

Agoraphobia Blues



Let me tell you, my everyday garden variety anxiety was more than enough for me to handle. Throw in a global pandemic, a crippling economy, and nurses wearing trash bags - well, now we are headed into a big-time Saturday night blow the roof off phobia party.


The funny thing is, my life is hardly any different, and yet, so changed. Let's start with yesterday. Sweats and or yoga pants with absolutely no underwear has become my daily uniform. This includes walking the dog and going to get the mail, because, WTF, who cares? Brushing my hair? I think I did that Wednesday, but I'm not entirely sure. So it had been 2 weeks since I left the house. I am not sure I remember how to drive. Good thing no one is on the road. I decided that the half-empty bag of pasta and boxed pot pie that has been in the freezer for almost a year is probably a sign that I need to do a grocery run. I start to get dressed. I get one leg in my jeans and think, NOPE.


So I walk over the yoga mat that I have used once and now taunts me with its disappointment and have yet another cup of coffee. My husband offers to go after he finishes work. Ok, great. I can take my bra off.


I start to make a list. It is especially long. Other people hoard TP, I hoard wine. We had finished the last bottle and I was jonesing for a tall glass of IDGAF. Now, I know that my husband would do his best. When he couldn't find the first bottle, he would grab whatever looked sort of close to what I asked. This is not going to work for me.


So, by the time 5:00 rolled around, I had finished the juggling act that is homeschooling children while trying to work my 40 hour a week job and I will tell you I would probably walk through land mines to find a decent bottle of Rose'. So I armed myself with my over the shoulder purse, a hidden bottle of hand sanitizer, my debit card in my pocket and rolled to the grocery store all windows open.


This is not so bad. There are hardly any people here, plenty of wipes for the grocery cart. I start cruising, feeling a bit like Melvin Udall from As Good As It Gets. "Don't touch! Don't touch!" But as long as they keep their distance, I'm cool. We cool. Was that a sneeze I just heard? Move along, Karen. I'm feeling a bit lightheaded and nauseous. I realize I have not taken a full breathe since I walked in. Because COVID-19 only attacks those who take full breaths, apparently.


What was that I heard Dr. Fauci say, it can live on surfaces for 47 hours? 47 days? Why wasn't I paying more attention?! Doesn't copper kill the virus? Note to self, find something copper to carry. So the shelves are fully stocked, except for the obvious, TP and beans. No shit, the whole store is chockablock full and then those two shelves, naked with a sign saying, no, we do not have any more in the back.


I go to check out, realizing how many things I have to touch. I sneak my hand sanitizer, hoping no one will tease me for obsessive hand cleaning (hello, Melvin Udall again) or worse, try to jump me and take it as there is none anywhere in the country. OMG I have to touch the pay machine. Buttons and more buttons. I use my pinky. I don't know why. My head hurts from lack of oxygen. Hurry up checker so I can get the F outta here and take a full breath!


You have 5 bottles of wine. Did you know you save 15% if you buy six? She asks. Why, no I did not. Hold please. I brave the aisles again, turning my body through the gauntlet of eyes staring each other down, looking for signs of weakness, or corona. I grab one more, almost home free! As the doors open, I slide my body out, taking the biggest breath I have ever taken like I did the time I tried pot in high school.


What did Dr. Fauci say about washing your food packages? Damn! I don't remember. I take off my shoes, leave them in the garage and strip down and throw my clothes immediately in the dirty laundry. Hubby, you're putting away the groceries, right? Cause I gotta take a scorching hot shower now.


So, feeling pretty brave, living on the wild side now, we decide to order take out tonight. Support one of our favorite restaurants. And when you are craving Thai, nothing else will do. We load up the kids (all of us still in our pajamas from the previous night) and drive downtown. It takes me a minute to remember that this is actually where I live. I have not seen it in a while. My husband goes in, brave soul that he is, and I hope that no one in there is sneezing or coughing. He comes out with the bag, places it on my lap and off we go, home from our big adventure.


I am not ashamed to tell you that it felt like a bomb sitting on my lap. The top of the paper bag was dangerously close to my face. Bring back the tiny breaths. It is 35 degrees out but I rolled that window down all the way. We talked about going to Starbucks, but I think I have lived dangerously enough for the next few months.


What is the incubation period again? 14 days? Oh good, plenty of time to let that phobia grow before its time to head to the store again.



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