I traveled by train from Italy back to Berlin. For this section of our Berlin stay I decided we would stay in a residence hotel instead of an Airbnb. A one bedroom with a living room and a kitchenette. The price included clean sheets, clean towels, and a housekeeper weekly. I could get used to this, especially the clean, ironed sheets.
The final stage of the train journey from Italy was a comfortable four-hour train from Frankfurt to Berlin. The scenery was spectacular with different shades of green exploding on the hills and fields of vibrant yellow rapeseed in full bloom.
Masks are still mandatory on public transportation in Germany therefore when I noticed that the two men behind me did not have their masks on I turned around, glared at them, and said ‘masks.’ My daughters call that look –mum’s death glare – which means, I mean business. They indicated to me that they were drinking their coffee. I raised my eyebrows, pursed my lips and gave a stern nod of approval. I think I was a teacher for too long and some of that behavior carried over into my retired life.
I don’t know if it was them or the business conference Peter went to where he said no one was wearing a mask, but we caught Covid. After spending two years diligently following the recommended rules – masks – vaccinations – outdoor gatherings – not seeing grandchildren indoors – learning Zoom – Zoom everything, it was exhausting to think we had finally caught Covid.
After fearing something for two years, my fear was enormous. The virus had been illustrated in numerous frightening ways and the image of hairy creatures with prongs latching onto my body loomed in my mind. My mind raced like a horror movie as I imagined these creatures drifting inside my bloodstream latching onto my internal organs with their claws and teeth and my sweet antibodies dressed in armor fighting courageously. I looked in the mirror and expected to see a purple, monster with the covid virus clinging to my face. Instead, I saw that my hair was overdue for my monthly hair dye, a necessity at my age. If I tested positive for too long my hair would turn white. My hairdresser had always said that white would not suit me as my hair is too thin.
But I had no choice. We were trapped in a hotel residence with Covid.
The kitchenette consisted of a kettle, an electric hotplate, a sink, two cups, two plates, two bowls, two knives, two forks, and two spoons. We had not yet worked out how to get food into the room. I thought about the story of a woman with covid quarantined in a hotel room in Australia who burned the room down.
After the initial shock, we accepted that our only food supply consisted of room service and me, wearing two black masks and my Audrey Hepburn sunglasses, walking across the street to the bakery where the doors and windows were wide open and only one person could enter at a time to get bread. Fortunately, the staff at the bakery wore masks, a rare sight in this now maskless, false sense of security world. To not look obvious, I dressed in black, which appeared to be the national clothing color in Germany. I avoided the elevator and snuck down the stairs. Seven floors. Daily I ordered the rolls and two hard-boiled eggs. The woman serving me became accustomed to my attire and greeted me in English every day. I ran back into the hotel and climbed the stairs to the 7th floor. Fortunately, we did not have severe symptoms and I could still climb stairs.
The Asian restaurant in the hotel called The Dong had great food, but it wasn’t so great after being placed on a tray and delivered as room service. It arrived lukewarm and when we ordered desserts the ice cream had melted. I did not let them enter the room. Masked I grabbed the tray and closed the door. I must admit they always had a rather puzzled look on their faces. It was a nice hotel and they really wanted to put the food on the table in a civilized manner.
The one advantage of room service is that I was collecting plates and cutlery daily. we were not having the rooms cleaned and always kept the do not disturb sign hung. Daily I washed the plates and cutlery and added them to my collection. By day seven, we could have had a dinner party for eight. The only staff member that was truly disappointed that he could not enter the room was a young Russian man to whom I handed the garbage daily. He really wanted to come into the room and show us how we could listen to music whilst sitting on the toilet. A comfort I felt we could live without.
The world consisted of Peter and I, and thank God, our computers. On day three we had a massive bickering match and questioned our entire existence. Why are we here? What are we doing with our lives? What is the meaning of life? Where do we want to live when we grow up? The usual questions.
Defeated by the positive test, I fluctuated in the one-bedroom flat between a very uncomfortable Ikea couch and bed. In bed, I would watch apple tv shows. Brainless crap – to think people make money from these shows. I watched the shows that only survived one or two episodes and then became a self-appointed tv critic writing reviews about why I thought they should stop the episodes. Beginning with the sentence – can’t act – dumb storyline – you have got to be kidding that you ever thought someone would watch that.
By day four I had lost the plot of why we were even in Europe. The only reality that existed was that we were stuck in a hotel room with Covid. By day six, my existence became timeless. We made mistakes when we asked each other what day of the week it was. I let go of planning where we would go next. It was as if my body had stopped, and my soul was slowly catching up. Life in Europe had been a three-month whirlwind with most of our plans not materializing.
It felt peaceful letting go.
My mind emptied as I listened to the city noises. But there was an added noise at the hotel we stayed in. Although we were on the 7th floor the hotel was owned by a porcelain factory KPM and the hotel overlooked the factory. The drone of whatever machinery goes into manufacturing porcelain hummed in the room all day.
We were under the impression that a person could not return to daily life unless they tested negative, however, a German friend informed us that the laws had changed and that if you had no symptoms after day five of testing positive you could re-enter the world. We decided to wait until our symptoms of coughing fits had gone. Finally on day nine, suffering from severe cabin fever, our coughs had improved and we decided we fitted the criteria and ventured out. We did not want to go inside and found a restaurant with outside sitting. Berlin remained cold and we froze in a windy corner with no other people around, huddled with a bowl of rice and vegetables.
On day ten, we tested negative and sighed with relief.