Taking Risks

There’s a game I used to play with myself as a kid. I’d look at a bag of candy, usually with small pieces…say, M&Ms, or Skittles. I’d think to myself, “if I knew that one of these pieces were poisoned, would I take the risk and eat one, knowing that I probably wouldn’t get the poisoned one?”

Honestly, I don’t remember if I ever answered that question for myself. Obviously there was never a poisoned piece of candy in the bag. Still, I’d carefully draw one out and put it in my mouth, and let a pretend feeling of relief wash over me.

We’re playing a game like that for real, now. Only instead of drawing out a piece of candy, it’s thinking “will this person be the one to do me in?”

Most people have had at least some contact with friends and family at this point. Humans are social creatures, and keeping us in isolated pods — especially single people that don’t live with families — is just not something that’s sustainable long-term. And it’s been long-term at this point, without, so far, a clear end in sight.

This isn’t to say I support simply giving up, but it seems that so many take (or at least profess to take) the all-or-nothing approach: you either stay in your house hiding under your bed 24/7, or you go to secret thousand-people music festivals, with not much in between.

The reality I think most people don’t want to admit is that they fall somewhere in the middle of this continuum. I certainly do. Parties are out, large gatherings are out, unnecessary outings to areas where a lot of people tend to be hanging around are out. Visiting most friends are out.

But there are holes in my safety protocol, as there are for everyone I think. There are a couple of friends that I see individually. Their children are the playmates of my child, and we let them get together maybe once a week. Every once in a while I eat at an open-air restaurant. I’ve been to the mall once this year. The lady that helps me with the house a couple times a week also works at other houses. I thrush my hand into the bag of Skittles, hoping to pull out a normal one. Everyone decides the top limits of their tolerable risk level.

This past week, I discovered that I narrowly escaped one. A very close friend, one we see somewhat often, and her family have COVID after coming back from being with their extended family over the holidays. Thankfully, we hadn’t seen them since at least a week before the holidays. We were actually going to celebrate Christmas together (in the end it was just me and my daughter), but I backed out because she told me it would include aunts and uncles instead of just the smaller nuclear family. I’m glad I did…my finger lingered on a poison Skittle, then dropped it and picked another.

I’m so tired of seeing other people as risks to my health and life, of wondering if each person I come into contact with will be the one. I’m young(ish) and healthy, I’d probably be okay. Heck, maybe I’ve had it already and been asymptomatic without realizing it, or maybe it was that weird awful fever I had at the end of February and not strep throat like I thought.

For now, I’m sticking close to home. No more coffee or play dates until things calm down, something I didn’t think I’d be able to bare, but will bare. Close calls will do that to you, and I’ve suddenly lost my appetite for Skittles.