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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2020

entry arrow7:33 PM | A Covid Scare, Part 2

[Read Part 1]

The taste of cinders in the mouth. That should have been a sign—and the jar of Nutella was still there in the pantry, eager for a taste test and lonely for bread in equal measure. We used to make jokes in the ensuing months of the pandemic that the reason why we were gaining weight, aside from the issue of a prolonged and mandatory sedentary existence, is that we were eating as barometer of health. “I can taste this fried chicken! Thank God.” “I can taste this lechon! Thank God.” “I can taste this green pro-biotic shake! Thank God.” There's some truth to that. In the absence of mass testing, we provide our own road map to uncharted 2020 terrors.

It was easy to ignore the semblance of ash in my mouth. Fevers bring that on. On the third day, finally remembering to eat—part of the pleasures of living on your own—I opened the box of Tuscan chicken, a favorite meal, and stared in feverish delirium at the crispy brown tenderness of the meat glistening in oil and herbs. I dug in. One bite, two bites.

Have you tried eating wet cartolina? Eating the Tuscan chicken was akin to the experience. It was so unappetising that by the fourth bite, hunger felt like the better option. I gave the Tuscan chicken to the cat, and Mouschi felt like he was king of the world.

It was time to retake the Nutella test. I gingerly spooned in, and took it. It was squishy mud on my tongue, absent of all its sweet hazelnut chocolate come-on. That full stop was sadness. I went back to sleep, like I lost a battle, but telling myself I was content on four bites of cartolina chicken and some spoonfuls of cartolina rice. I stuck to fulfilment of my routine: sleep, wake, urinate, drink the coldest of water, shower.

Routine is good but you could not ignore a growling stomach. And I stumbled on another converse mystery: hunger pangs and loss of appetite can in fact occur at the same time.

The next day, I had another favorite meal: the chicken inato, the pecho cut, from Jo's. It tasted like four-day old thick-crust pizza with no toppings left out in the sun for far too long. I chose hunger, and gave the remainder to the cat. But I knew I was playing a dangerous game: I had to put in something in me besides all the water I was taking. So I had some longganisa and scrambled eggs, a meal that came with a preamble: “Swallow, no matter what, and hold it in.” I lasted five swallows, not without effort, but it was my body regurgitating the blank vileness of what I was eating, threatening to push the last bite up my throat, while I desperately willed myself to hold it down. I considered five swallows a success, and the cat licked its whiskers, Mouschi's green eyes conniving and superior.

Taste is a peculiar thing, and like all things most vital in our lives, we take it for granted, its absence a gaping void we are surprised could thoroughly misorder our world. I didn't appreciate that taste is very much our gateway to sustenance, which without, makes hunger like Piolo Pascual. I ticked one more symptom down, this one which had been my secret indicator. And then the loose, watery stools also began. So I ticked another symptom down.

I was still trying to self-monitor, like how we are all advised, harboring the vaguest of hopes that it could be just something else. My friend Malcolm Hiponia, after all, had this to say: “I had all the symptoms. Tested negative twice. Went to urgent care on the second week. The doctor said I had bronchitis, and prescribed antibiotics. I got well two days later.”

You never know, really, until you get tested. I texted Jacqueline Antonio at the City Tourism Office, and she gave me the hotline to call. I was apprehensive. It was, I knew, my Day 4. And I also knew that by Day 5, the notorious breathing difficulties, on the average, could appear. Breathing is important, and I'm not sure even the cat could be of much help in that regard.


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