I arrive at the Aquaduct Racetrack parking lot where the digital traffic sign announces COVID TESTING. I drive up to the first checkpoint. It’s all military here: everyone covered in fatigues and masks. Multiple signs direct me to keep my windows rolled up.
They yell at me through N95s and my closed car windows. I know they aren’t angry but it sure gives that impression. I am a possible contagion under glass. DO YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT? Yes. WHAT TIME? 1:30. SHOW ME YOUR ID#. PUT IT ON THE DASHBOARD WITH YOUR LICENSE AND LEAVE IT THERE. DO NOT OPEN YOUR WINDOWS.
Next check point. DO NOT OPEN YOUR WINDOWS. My dashboard info is examined and additional paperwork is placed under my windshield wiper. I am really starting to sweat now. It’s a warm day and I have turned off the air conditioning so I can hear what they are saying. I assume someone will take my temperature at some point and I’m going to say that they should really grade that on a curve. Thankfully, nobody ever takes my temperature.
Next check point. I am approaching the testing tent. The windshield wiper paperwork is now held up to the outside of the driver’s side window for me to examine and verify.
I am instructed to pull up and wait. There are two cars ahead of me. DO NOT OPEN YOUR WINDOW UNTIL YOU ARE INSTRUCTED TO. PUT YOU HEAD BACK ON THE HEADREST. A COTTON SWAB WILL BE INSERTED IN YOUR NOSE TO COLLECT A SAMPLE FROM THE BACK OF YOUR THROAT.
I know. I know. I have been waiting for this appointment for quite some time. I am a week past my 17 days of fevers and fatigue but I thought I should get tested anyway, because who the hell knows what is going on with this virus?
Now it’s my turn. Pull up. Put it in park. Roll the window down. A medical person and his assistant in scrubs and masks approach. The previous information is repeated, just not as loud. I lower my mask. Put my head back. The swab is inserted. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.
“Are you a music teacher?” He’s asking me a question while this thing is twisting in my nose.
“Am I a… huh?” I’m trying to figure out what prompted this inquiry. And then I remember: my mask. Black with white musical notes and clefs on it.
I want to say “Oh – my mask? Well… for my birthday back in 2002, my mother used this fabric to make me a wall tapestry depicting the pre-9/11 New York City skyline and now she used the leftovers to sew masks for my partner and I. Can you believe this world we are living in?”
But instead I just say, “No.” The test swab is still grinding against the back of my throat.
“Was I close?” he asks.
I know what he’s doing. He’s being nice. He’s trying to keep me calm. But it’s like when you are in the dentist’s chair with a mouth full of gauze and suction and instruments and he asks a question that requires more response than a head shake or a nod. How in-depth can I get in the midst of this procedure?
Was he close? My resume spins like a rolodex in my head. I am overthinking this. I finally manage to say; “I was an actor.” Does that sufficiently answer his question? It is the simplest answer. And I still have a stick in my nose.
No other questions are forthcoming. I think about what I said. I was an actor. Past-tense. Before all this. Before we got here. Are we done?
He slowly slides the swab out and I am momentarily reminded of some stunt we used to pull as kids: snorting a spaghetti noodle up our noses and pulling it out of our mouths. Kids.
Once the swab has been extricated, I let out a little whoop that could be interpreted a lot of ways. Pain? Excitement? Relief? The assistant looks a little startled so I assume it is not the normal reaction.
We are done. I can go online in 2 to 3 days to get my results. I smile and thank them and wish them a good day and roll up my window. I put the car in drive and pull out of the tent, following a line of cones directing me back to Rockaway Boulevard.
The sun streams in through the closed skylight window. And I burst into tears.
Sunday: My results were posted today and I am all clear.