Symptoms of Living

You examine every possible symptom and exposure.

1. A “dry cough”: at night, a present tickle in the throat, could it be the antihypertension medication? ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors are notorious for a side effect of cough. Or is it a lifetime of chronic nasal congestion, exacerbated by central heating and being cooped up inside with dogs?

2. Was I standing too near the friendly neighbor with the adorable pit bull named Andre?

3. Did I forget to wash my hands after a trip to Costco?

4. Was I too close to the guy jogging through the cemetery while I was on one of my walks?

I no longer fear packages delivered from east coast cities. I trust that our friends and my family, (the husband’s family is a different matter) are safe and uninfected because we share the same political view about mask-wearing, and because several are registered nurses. (Like me.)

(“Political”, meaning on which side of the purple wall do you stand?, is a sad adjective for “mask-wearing”.)

We’ve dodged the bullet so far and now a “jab” (as the English say) of a vaccine is in our future. Two jabs, depending on when we meet criteria. Not since the ’60’s has everything been so freaking weird. Unless it was the fifties—our generation feared The Bomb. Today’s gen-whatevers fear an active shooter. Can we blame it all on the Second Amendment and the corrupt N.R.A?

My doom scrolling included a disturbing New Yorker article written by a journalist who followed the mob into the U.S Capital. He followed several marches in D.C. after Election Day. Who thinks Election Day should be a U.S. holiday? Raise your hands! That is, if we are still voting in person.

Back to the article. It made me wince, actually. And to feel a bit hopeless. Photoshopped images, videos of everyday activities turned into lies, all this is being shared a million times over on the Internet. The Internet is a boon and a curse. A stove is great for cooking, but it can burn the hell out of you if you handle it wrongly.

The author of the article talked to a lot of people who joined the marches. To a one, they defend the lie. They are angry. And they’re just regular people, like you and me. Donald Trump may be a boorish bully, but he poked the bear. Bullies know how to use language to intimidate. One might say they are addicted to the gratification of seeing fear in people’s faces. They get high from it. Donald learned about that high a long time ago; that’s how he ran his Ponzi-like businesses, how he managed the schlubs who worked for him.

The New York Times recently ran a piece about Melania, the unsmiling, silent doll stonily tramping after her husband. She despises us just as much as Donald. And perhaps feels the same dislike of her husband. At least I hope so.

“Us” are also just regular people. There’s this dualism. The blue and red sides batter each other with bitter hate, but then deliver boxes of food to our neighbors no matter what color our ballcap. With the bully-in-chief no longer wielding publicity like a man with a bat wading into a crowd, will just regular people go back to leading a life? When herd immunity is established, will just regular people take the flags off their pick-ups or let their Mother Jones subscriptions lapse?

I sure hope so.

I walk 3 miles several times a week. I’ll be going out soon on this sunny January day. Along with my ear buds, my Audible app, and my sunglasses, I’ll slip a mask into my pocket.

I’m trying to lead a life.



About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


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