Diary of a Plague Year: Ten Days in the Covid Quarantine Dorm

Day Zero, Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.: The call comes Tuesday evening. I am in line at Commons, but I step outside for the phone call that I had pretty much guessed was coming. Gently, the Area Coordinator on the phone tells me she has some bad news. I know what she’ll say before she opens her mouth; I have been exhausted all day, my throat raw and coated in sand. A positive test, the AC tells me. She gives me two hours to pack before I am expected to move into Farm House, where I will be spending the next ten days in isolation.

Day Zero, Tuesday, 7:00 p.m.: In the madness of packing, I have missed the time-frame for online Commons delivery orders. I haven’t eaten since noon, but I do have a two-day-old cup of corn chowder in my room. I’m too tired to use the microwave so I sit on the floor and eat it, cold and unpleasantly thick, with my back to the mini-fridge.

Day Zero, Tuesday, 8:00 p.m.: Two other students arrive within my first half-hour in farm house. I greet them from my doorway, but we won’t see much of each other. We are instructed to stagger our times in the bathroom and kitchen and stay in our rooms as much as possible. They don’t call it isolation for nothing. There are three shelves on the left wall, all of them too tall for me to reach flat on my feet. The bedsheets, I suspect, are made to be disposable. They are translucent thin, and rough enough to snag on my calloused hands. I steal an extra pillow from a bag in the hallway, so there are two of them on my bed. I don’t bother to unpack that night. I throw the bed together, and by 10:00 I’m already asleep.

Day One, Wednesday: I go through half a box of tissues over the course of the day. I am running a fever, and I only leave my bed to eat and take a shower. My grandparents email me a get-well ecard straight out of the early 2000s. I play a frightening amount of Pokémon, and I sleep.

Day Two, Thursday: I cough. I sneeze. I battle the elite four. I don’t talk about Bruno. I sleep.

Photo by Tori Boldt

Day Three, Friday, 12:00 p.m.: I sleep some more. I finish my second box of tissues. I get a care package from my friends. Tea, ibuprofen, unicorn shaped instant mac, and my own set of sheets plus blanket. I see my friends for the first time since Tuesday morning. I am afraid to get within six feet of them.

Day Three, Friday, 12:15 p.m.: I discover that my room has a walk-in closet with its own light. I shut myself inside and cry until I fall asleep again.

Day Three, Friday, 10:00 p.m.: My fever breaks. 

Day Four, Saturday, 8:30 a.m.: Today I wake up before 10:00 a.m. for the first time since getting sick. I am finally feeling better, which only means that it is time for the boredom to truly set in.

Day Four, Saturday, 10:00 a.m.: I run a mile in very small circles around my room. 

Day Four, Saturday, 12:00 p.m.: The walls of my room are white. The floor is wood. There is no color, no personality, no comfort. Something must be done about this, for my sake and for the sake of anyone to quarantine here after me. I enter my closet again, I take out my paints, and I set to work.

Day Four, Saturday, 2:00 p.m.: I start rearranging all the furniture in my room into one big blanket fort. Finally the disposable sheets have a use. 

Day Four, Saturday, 3:00 p.m.: I have a long online debate about the ethics of taking an extra blanket from the living room closet for my pillow fort. I am convinced to commit crimes.

Day Four, Saturday, 4:00 p.m.: My thumb gets smashed between the bedframe and the floor. Much loud cursing, but such are the sacrifices of a great artist.

Day Four, Saturday, 5:00 p.m.: The fort must be PERFECT. I will settle for nothing less.

Day Four, Saturday, 6:00 p.m.: The fort is finished, and it is beautiful. My mattress goes underneath. Closed up inside, I can pretend I am at a sleepaway camp, or somewhere else exciting. I feel a little bit better. 

Day Five, Sunday: The interior of my closet is quickly becoming a blossoming meadow. The inside of my head is quickly becoming a wasteland.

Photo by Tori Boldt

Day Six, Monday: Classes start. The wifi in Farm House is abysmal and I miss half the words being said in every class. Unable to purchase a large drawing pad for my art class, my first drawing of the semester is done on an unfolded commons takeout bag. 

Day Seven, Tuesday: Today marks eight days since I have touched another human being. I am lonely to the point of delusion. My sense of time has eroded completely. I have always lived in the farmhouse. My childhood, my time at Reed, my friends and family, do not and have never existed. They were merely the delusions of a fevered mind. There are only these four white walls, and there is only myself. I cry myself to sleep again.

Day Eight, Wednesday: A juvenile Cooper’s Hawk smashes a pigeon into my window, and I spend ten minutes watching it tear its grizzly meal apart before it flies away. I am jealous.

Day Nine, Thursday, 12:00 p.m.: A call comes from the COVID Coordinator: I am allowed to return to my dorm and complete my last day of quarantine in my room. I suspect they are running out of places to put students and want me out early. I pack with a joy I haven’t felt in ten days.

Day Nine, Thursday, 4:00 p.m.: The inside of my room’s closet is full of color by now. The garden I created is the only good thing that has come of this time. I go to look at it one last time. I don’t know if it will be covered up or not, but I hope that it will be left at least for a little while. I am leaving a piece of myself in this room, a gift for whoever comes next. Their walls will not be white, and they will not be alone.

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Sandy Hjortland
Sandy Hjortland
1 year ago

I love this diary of Covid isolation. I can feel the author’s anguish. The emotions are real: sadness, desperation, boredom to the point of crazy-think. Then joy, elation, the prison is ending. The details are concrete: we understand what is going on! Building a fort as a small child might shows the level of self protection needed to maintain sanity, decorating the closet walls with wildflowers hints of hope; there will be life after this terrible ordeal. We are safe again. The author has come full circle: from the depths back to the light. We can understand this. I loved this first person narrative of Covid quarantine.

8 months ago

no offense but why were you in commons if you were waiting on the results of a covid test??


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