Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin.
By DELL FRANKLIN
It’s like waiting for the hammer to fall as the virus creeps closer and closer to San Luis Obispo County and tiny Cayucos from the big crowded cities. A patient recently died. There’s a daily count of mounting cases in newspapers and online. A friend told me a few days ago that he knows of at least three cases in Cayucos, all of whom recovered.
“Were they old?,” I asked.
“Nope, early fifties.”
You hear the horror stories in New York and LA, and of a young ex-pro football player nearly croaking and relating his suffering and brush with death, and begin to rethink your own vulnerability as reports come in of much younger people succumbing.
In the late afternoon, as I walked Wilbur, I noticed my hips and lower back ached more than usual; but I didn’t give it much thought, for, as an ongoing athlete who’s gone full bore for nearly seven decades, I’m used to discomfort and expect it at my age.
Later that night, around 10, as I rose from my throne to find some popcorn and a slug of vodka while I watched a Jack Nicholson movie on cable TV, I noticed the joint pain was more gnawing and had spread, and I thought, “This reminds me of past experiences with the flu, and these days there’s only one flu to fear.”
I took a hot shower and went to bed. I never use heat in my cottage, which has terrible insulation, so it was cold and damp. And as I snuggled under the covers, I began to anticipate the clamminess and restlessness and incapability of curling up and staying in one place as a fever takes over.
I couldn’t sleep. I was wired and thrashing around, and intermittently felt hot and cold.
“This is FRICKING IT!” I thought, as I tossed and turned, constantly felt my forehead, which was dry….but I was working myself into a lather. Who had breathed on me? What had I touched? When was I stupid and careless and now paying for it?
If I got really sick, who would walk my dog? Who would take my dog if this killed me? Who would I dare ask to bring me supplies if this illness got out of control? (My lady companion is in recovery after a broken hip.)
When do I call my doctor? I am 76 years old and in robust health for a senior, but I’ve also had a bout with cancer; and watching the cable stations on TV, there is one report after another of elderly people suddenly going downhill and dying quickly, alone, utterly without dignity, mere statistics in an ongoing pandemic, shoveled into make-shift temporary morgues.
And, while quarantined here and awaiting my fate, I will be alone as alone can get, for there is no worse loneliness than one spent sick and feeling you’re going under.
Twelve o’clock and I was still rolling around. I watched another movie, distracted, obsessed, my joints still gnawing away. I felt my forehead. Dry.
But I felt too warm under the covers. I got out of bed and it was cold, and I jumped back in and watched more of the movie, and turned channels and found nothing I liked on HBO, Showtime, Cinemax or any of the stations, and it was 2 in the morning.
At 3, I got up for another, bigger slug of vodka, and a melatonin, and dressed in my sweats and went outside and looked up at the sky on a cold crisp night, and discovered a full moon.
I got back under the covers. Felt my forehead, dry but warm. I was numb from the vodka, so my joints were not as painful. Then I told myself, “What are you worrying about? You’re a notoriously, horrible insomniac. You’ve had many nights before when you couldn’t fall asleep, and tossed and turned and drank vodka and took melatonin.
“And you know also that a full moon is when people go crazy; as a bartender, you had to deal with some of the most unhinged drunks.”
Four o’ clock and I was talking to myself, going back and forth like a pendulum—am I going to live or die?
Suddenly it was 5:53 on the digital. I was suffused in a kind of stupor. My eyes burned and I was light-headed, but not sweating at all. I felt cool and calm under the covers. I lay there, the TV finally off. I took a deep breath.
I stretched my hips and pulled up my knees, and it was not too bad. I got up in the cold room and staggered around, slightly drunk, and felt the usual stiffness. But the gnawing was gone, and then I remembered: Yesterday morning, I did my core yoga poses after riding the stationary bike pretty damn hard, harder than usual. I overdid it, as usual. This has happened before, countless times.
I walked around and I was fine. My dog, who slept soundly through this ordeal, was up from his roost awaiting breakfast, tail wagging. I gave him a big hug.
The hammer is still waiting to fall. We’ve got a long time to go.