Woman Under Quarantine Escapes

The parking lot at Walgreens is packed. People no doubt are stocking up on prescriptions, over-the-counter-meds, toilet paper in preparation for isolation. I need a feminine product I forgot to get at the grocery store earlier.

Inside, the store doesn’t reflect the full lot outside. Where is everyone?  Is there a party in the backroom I don’t know about? I pick up my product and take it to the cashier.

For once there is no line. That in and of itself is strange. There’s almost always a long line of people in this store, sighing impatiently and rolling their eyes. Often, I am one of those people.

I hand the cashier a twenty and glance to my left. Standing about seven feet from me is an older woman wearing a loosely tied hospital gown, baggy hospital looking pants, and worn out sneakers. She is drinking liquid out of a glass bottle, her right hand shaking as she holds it to her lips.

Her appearance, so unexpected in this setting, is shocking. I begin to  wonder if I’ve entered a twilight zone.

I look closely at her. She could be anywhere from 60-75 years old. It’s hard to tell if it’s age or hard living showing up on her face. Her hair is dirty blond, thin and dry, either from poor diet, medication, or too much home dying and perming.

She is shaking. She is in some kind of trouble. People don’t walk into stores wearing hospital gowns. Pajamas, slippers, curlers in their hair yes, but not this.

I can’t help myself. I never could keep my mouth shut. “Ma’am,” I say. “Are you supposed to be in the hospital?”

Her voice sounds stronger and more reasonable than her appearance. “I was quarantined for three days. But don’t worry, I’m not contagious.”

Could she be referring to COVID-19, the deadly, novel virus sweeping America and the world? The cashier, a young woman in her late teens, hands me my change.  She is looking at the woman warily, probably wondering how to get out of having to wait on her.

I persist, because the older woman looks like she needs help. People that are okay don’t walk into stores in hospital gowns, and she is shaking. More than her attire, it is the shaking that troubles me.

“Did they let you out of the hospital without your clothes?” I ask her. “Do you need help?”

The smile that passes over her weathered face is full of mischief. “I couldn’t take being in there anymore.”

It dawns on me in that moment that she must have escaped! There is a hospital across the street from this store. Was she suspected of having COVID-19, placed under quarantine, and left against medical advice? I could imagine it. I had a great aunt who used to do it all the time. Whenever she had chest pains, she would call an ambulance, be taken to the ER, then against medical advice, would call a cab and leave for home.

I have a decision to make. Do I ask more questions, try to further assess the situation? If I do, am I responsible for what might come next, like guiding her somewhere safe, calling a family member for her, maybe contacting the police? The situation could get complicated, and was it really any of my business? For all I know, she has someone waiting outside for her in a car.

My instincts are telling me to help. How can I live with myself if I don’t? My mind is telling me to leave it alone. She might have Coronavirus, for goodness sake.

I lean over and whisper to the cashier, “You may want to call your manager. She looks like she needs help.” And I leave.

The Road Not Taken

jeremiahAs we embark on a new year, I am thinking about the road not taken. Of the decisions and choices we make along the way that alter the course of our lives, in ways we will never know. We may know what our lives are today, but we will never know what they might have been if we made different choices.

Sometimes I wish I could get a glimpse into that life. What does the road not taken look like? Would we want to see it if we could? Would doing so cause us to sigh with relief or break our heart?

Recently, I had lunch with a friend who is a professor of physics . He has spent his career studying time travel.  His belief in parallel universes,  to explain what is known as the grandfather paradox, is like the road not taken. In short, if you went back in time and killed your grandfather, which prevented your parents and, by extension, you from being born, how are you now alive to go back in time? One answer is that granddad is alive in a parallel universe. Likewise, according to this theory, there is another you living in a parallel universe, living out the choices you did not make.

Kind of mind blowing, when one considers the possibility.

Moving ahead to 2017, I want to make decisions and choices that lead me down a road that feels right in my body, heart, and soul. I haven’t been doing that much over the past 10 years, and the wrongness of it all is catching up with me in ways I can no longer ignore. My body feels achy and tired. My spirit is flat. My energy low. My mind won’t shut off. I can’t get a good night’s sleep. I feel afraid a lot, and I can’t exactly pinpoint why.

Change through choice is the only recourse, and I’ve identified ways I can begin this process. They include reigniting a daily yoga and meditation practice, dancing a lot, and taking regular walks through nature. Tapping into the source via the body and spiritual/natural  world greatly helps to clarify what changes and choices need to be made. Finding the courage to stand up for one’s life helps, too.

Yet, it also seems that sometimes whatever choices we make, there are forces at work leading us, and even dragging us kicking and screaming, in another direction. How much of our life is defined by our choices and how much by these forces? In the end, do our choices even matter or do God’s, or fate’s, plans for us prevail? If so, is surrendering to them our only option for peace?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and also what your plans are as you enter 2017. Happy New Year, my darling fellow bloggers! May peace and courage be yours.

P.S. If you want to learn more about time travel and parallel universes, check out this 17 minute Ted Talk by my friend, Professor Ron Mallett. The story of how he became interested in studying time travel, and his work, are fascinating. Enjoy!