And Then We Saw the Daughter of The Minotaur, by Leonora Carrington 1953

“Why am I so exhausted?” I said, collapsing into bed two hours before my usual Sunday bedtime. I had spent the entire day doing nothing but sweeping the balcony, watering plants, and napping. I smudged some palo santo around the room, an ancient ritual I rarely conduct anymore, and crashed. At 4 A.M., I awoke uncomfortable and feverish. Sage took my temperature and gave me a COVID test.

“Remind me how this one works again?” Sage said. It’s been a while since we’ve tested ourselves.

“This line should always appear because it’s the control. If it doesn’t appear, it means the test is invalid,” I said, “this one will appear only if I’m positive.”

“…well, it’s already appeared,” she said.


The next 48 hours were a blur of sleep, mild fever, body aches, weird thoughts, and uncomfortably delirious dreams.

The tides started to turn Wednesday morning after a deep diphenhydramine-induced sleep. Sage made a huge pot of chicken noodle soup for me. I slept more, and began to write this post.

Friday I felt good enough to work again.

Sunday I was still testing positive but we’d managed to keep Sage virus-free so far. Quite amazing given how small our home is.

It is now Tuesday and I’m still testing positive. Day nine or ten depending how you count. I feel like I’ve been torn down to my very core. Which is sleep, apparently. I miss playing with the cats.

New Confusion is frequently listed as one of the symptoms of COVID. LIL INTERNET, stalwart decrypter of the zeitgeist, championed the term on the New Models podcast as an apt descriptor for our current age. I couldn’t agree more because my thoughts have turned especially weird and ingrown. I go for walks, yes, but this isolation has changed me. Too much time to think… or maybe finally enough? Self similar simulacra. That one technique whereby images are enlarged with fractal algorithms, essentially filling in the digital blanks with smaller versions of the image itself.

I’ve finally shaken hands with the COVID cerebus. This is it. This is them. They are legion. They go by many names and forms. To me, they are called COVID: The Virus, COVID: The Symbol, and COVID: The Hyperobject.

Warning: unreliable narrator, imperfect first-person, slippery tense.

COVID: The Virus

Zdzisław Beksiński

They are in my body and they are communing with me.

This communion is nonconsensual, as is the nature of all viral exchanges. I know this because my own mitochondria know this, their forefathers not that dissimilar from SARS-CoV-2 itself.

So they ravage me, injecting their viral lodes into my cells, who then burst and echo and scream. What these boogeymen may or may know is I am vaccinated and their eldritch skeleton keys to my biology won’t function as they intend. But my muscles still ache and my breath still short. I use an oximeter to monitor my blood-oxygen levels. It’s fine. I won’t die. I can still taste and smell, though nothing I eat really agrees with me.

But this is my kingdom, my domain, my body and so I have home-court advantage: a feverish furnace to immolate the impurities, a constant stream of Black Berkey Elements BB9-2 filtered-water, a calculated drip of painkillers and cannabinoids to keep the aches away, and a sheltering embrace from the golden wings of St. Benzodiazepine to keep The Fear away. I know one day I will have to endure these winds on my own forever, but for now: I will take all the help I can get.

Though I know I have several days of biological combat ahead of me, I take comfort in knowing COVID: The Virus has (likely) already lost.

COVID: The Symbol

Zdzisław Beksiński

COVID: The Symbol was constructed layer-by-layer, by millions of people. We all spun the myth together like so many wasps meticulously layering newspaper scraps into a nest. A headline of lockdown orders here. A grim photograph of bodies overflowing the freezers there. Crucially, at the nest’s very core lies a dark mystery - for even now in 2024 there is no consensus as to where the virus actually came from, making it all the more terrifying. And the misinformation is so snarled in with everything I question many of my own memories.

What, exactly, does COVID symbolize? Different things for different people, for sure. But for me it is: the stranger, the other, the unknown, and death.

It is the fear of not knowing if the lady ahead of you at the grocery store is infected. It is the paranoia of doorknobs. It is the specter of conspiracy theories. It is the plague vibe. It is not knowing if this is the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end.

It is important for me to separate these aspects as categorically distinct from COVID: The Virus. A virus can be seen and destroyed. A symbol cannot. A symbol can only be forgotten, given sufficient time…

COVID: The Hyperobject

Zdzisław Beksiński

The third head of the COVID cerebus is a hyperobject - a thing so massively distributed in time and space that it defies traditional categorization and taxonomy.

Oil is perhaps my favorite example of a hyperobject. Unbelievably ancient fossil fuels, driver of war, the lifeblood of industry, enabler of transit, the taste of her cherry chapstick, greenhouse effect, fractal nausea, the micro-plastics in our bloodstreams, Zdzisław Beksiński’s paint. To invoke oil is to invoke all of these things.

COVID: The Hyperobject is telecommuting, is social distancing, is anti-maskers, is the immunocompromised, is Timm’s death, is xenophobia, is virology, is flattening the curve, is everyone cheering out their windows at 7 P.M. in New York City, is COVID: The Virus and COVID: The Symbol, is all these things and innumerable more.

COVID: The Hyperobject is now also me. I am it.

One facet of COVID: The Hyperobject I simply cannot stop thinking about is the time Trump got COVID: The Virus. I remember the video more than anything. It is so over the top and dramatic and I still can’t believe they got away with that soundtrack. The details of it all were too murky so I’ve turned to artificial intelligence to help me, specifically ChatGPT 3.5 on March 20, 2024. This is the perfect use case. Because even if the answers are wrong, I need to fill this void with something.

> when did donald trump get covid?

Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 on October 1, 2020. He announced this on his Twitter account. Following his diagnosis, Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment.

> what was his treatment?

After testing positive for COVID-19, Donald Trump received a combination of treatments. Some of the treatments he received included:

  • Remdesivir: This antiviral medication was administered to help reduce the replication of the virus in his body.
  • Dexamethasone: Trump received this steroid medication, which is used to reduce inflammation and was shown in some studies to benefit severely ill COVID-19 patients.
  • Regeneron’s experimental antibody cocktail: Trump received an experimental antibody treatment developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. This treatment aimed to boost his immune response to the virus.

Additionally, Trump’s medical team monitored his condition closely and provided supportive care as needed. It’s important to note that the specific details of his treatment were not fully disclosed, and the information available is based on statements from Trump’s medical team and public announcements.

Following this story and seeing this video (apparently around October 5, 2020) is a massive nodal point in COVID: The Hyperobject for me. It is none of the stories and all of the stories. The least important and the most important. Tautological hauntologies.

Memories of a Broken Future

The Concert in the Egg, by Hieronymus Bosh, 1480

All of this gets me thinking about hauntology. The idea that the future we were promised never quite arrived, that things are sliding sideways or even backwards in time, that we have arrived at the end of history and it is unsatisfactory and untenable.

Hauntology typically operates on a macro “where are our solarpunk airships?” level but for me it also operates on a very intimate level.

Before the pandemic, I had a pretty clear vision of what my future was going to be. Post-pandemic everything is upended and inverted. It’s taken massive effort for me to tease out which echoes of the pandemic are communal, which are personal karma, which are sheer violence of natural selection, which are chaos, which are coincidence.

I know what I’m feeling is different than looking back at my youth through rose-colored glasses and submitting to nostalgia - though I do my fair share of that, too. No, this feeling is the result of reconciling a delta that could only be caused by cosmically fucked rounding errors. This blog post is an important piece of that work, as are all the COVID posts I’ve made.

The future I now call the present is haunted by the very vision of what I thought it would be, because this is so emphatically not that future. And my past is haunted by the memories I experience in this broken future. The work now is re-orienting myself in time and space, imagining new futures, and finding the next mountain… once - if - this New Confusion fades.

Images in this post:

  • And Then We Saw the Daughter of The Minotaur, by Leonora Carrington 1953
  • Three works by Zdzisław Beksiński
  • The Concert in the Egg, by Hieronymus Bosh, 1480