the swiss indoors
The Longest Stay at Home
No day is like the other in this pandemic. I have been ‘at home’ for the longest time I can remember. Apart from the occasional visit to the post office, the supermarket and the doctor, I’ve hardly been anywhere else. I’m living within a one-kilometer radius of my apartment. You understand that this is because we are globally on lockdown. In Switzerland, we have a lighter version of the lockdown. We are allowed to go walking outside. I thought about calling it the Swiss Indoors, alluding to our world-famous tennis tournament in Basel. Sounds nicer than lockdown. Though the main reason I’m not moving about is that I was diagnosed with Covid-19.
The beginning of the pandemic – after the initial shock of what had happened in St. Anton, Austria – seemed like a game, like a movie, like ‘Life is Beautiful’. Something was definitely wrong, but I probably had one of my most creative phases in a long time. The week before our government announced the ‘Swiss Indoors’ I had been skiing in St. Anton. During the week, we went from laughing about the corona crisis to our friends’ leaving a day early to be able to get back into the US, and my friend E. and I being expelled from the town on the Friday afternoon. We had been sitting in a chairlift when we were told that we had to leave the town and country immediately. One coronavirus case on Tuesday had led to a hotspot situation in the town. By the time we reached our ski apartment, the train station had closed. Only by coincidence did we find a bus that took us to Zurich airport. By Saturday, I knew I would have to be in quarantine for at least 14 days.
From Monday onwards, I had a crazy amount of work to juggle in a project that relied heavily on international assignments. I spent Week 1 of quarantine training a new hire. I did not feel well, but not even the deputy of my doctor believed that I had caught the coronavirus. So, I doubted what I felt, thought I had a panic attack or maybe some form of PTSD as a reaction to being ‘expelled’ from the ski vacation in such a rush. I had told my partner to leave the house and organized a place for him to stay, so I could self-quarantine in peace and without too much trouble. I was ready to call an ambulance on Day 5 but was told it was the wrong number. I felt again like I was in a movie, but the wrong one.
Week 2 came. The symptoms had gone, but I felt weak and in a lot of pain. I wasn’t sure if my pain was related to the virus, it could have been hormonal. I focused on my project and my plan to set up a business in the next several months. I watched videos about China. I wanted to be prepared. I hardly remember Week 2, only that at the end of it, I informed the doctor and cantonal health authority that I would finish self-quarantine. No fever, ever. I seemed to be okay.
I went out to the post office and supermarket and welcomed my partner back into our small apartment. We were happy to be alive and a few days later, we celebrated with too much wine. The next day I felt worse. It was a Thursday. I tried to get over my hangover and the incredible sentence I had said: “I’m dying.” I did not die. He got scared, though. He got too close to me that day, trying to help.
On Friday, I went to sleep at three in the afternoon. I’d been having trouble sleeping since we left St. Anton, which was very unusual for me. I’m normally a very good sleeper. I watched videos of birds hatching their chicks as these seemed to make me calmer.
On Saturday, I went for a walk and stole a few twigs from a wooded area nearby. I enjoyed being outside so much, it was as if I had lived in a tunnel for a year. I decorated, I cleaned, we rearranged the furniture and cleared out junk. It was healing, like feng-shui. I almost worked through the night and decided I would paint the next day and be offline for a change. I was. It was relaxing, but the pain I had felt in my chest continued and became worse.
I had a hard time breathing, and when I tried to do the washing I felt dizzy. No hangover this time, no other excuse. My lungs weren’t working the way they usually did. I got scared, I shouted at my partner, I was angry.
I called my family in Germany. For the first time, I felt like I lived abroad. Normally, they’re a short two-hour trip away. In the pandemic, they live in another country, another jurisdiction. They follow stricter rules. There is a border now. A border that had been open since 1996. Now closed. Because of a virus.
We decided that I should call an ambulance, right then on a Sunday night. Not only was Switzerland in a state of emergency: I was too. I don’t think I had ever been inside an ambulance before. I’m 48 years old and not a sporty person, but I can ski every day for a full week without training. I was able to run 10 kilometers at least once, a few years back. I walk everyday under normal circumstances. I usually work outside of my house with clients.
I travel to Liechtenstein, France, Germany and Holland regularly. I have a ‘GA’ (train ticket covering all of Switzerland). I love to sit on a train. I travel for pleasure. I have plans: St. Anton, Dijon, Lindau, Berlin, Merano, NYC, the Hamptons, the South of France, Munich. Long weekends, long holidays.
But for now, it’s Zurich, Switzerland. The Hirslanden neighborhood, to be precise. After spending a few days in the hospital, I started a Zen garden and have met many of my neighbors for the first time. I support shops in the neighborhood. I buy online.
I’m still recovering. They said my case of Covid-19 was ‘mild’. But I thought it was ‘a rollercoaster’ – because I thought I was better, thought it was over, and then it started again and got worse than before. Officially, I’m ‘negative’ now, but I feel weaker than normal. I don’t have the same energy. I want to leave the house and meet people but I’m not sure people want to meet me. I have the virus inside me. Nobody really knows what that means. Maybe I will turn into a bat. Maybe I will become Wonder Woman.
Or maybe it will kill me slowly. I woke up this morning with pain, my voice still strains easily, and I get tired fast. I’m angry, moody, on the verge of depression. I speak my mind. Forget how to sugarcoat, forget the political correctness at work, forget how to mute myself on a call. I behave a bit like a recovering idiot. People are careful. They’re not sure what to say when I mention the C-word. It’s a secret weapon but it also reminds me of something else: a yellow badge.
Should I have kept it a secret?