American Black Creative Nonfiction

Killer Hugs

In this post-pandemic moment, I'm glad I am paralyzed. Here is why…. I'm not a germaphobe, but everyone should still live as one. Think about everything you touch in a day, week, month, or year.


Before exiting the bed in the morning, we reach for the alarm, light, or both. If you're like me, over fifty, you reach for your assistants, glasses, hearing aids, cane, or bedpost to steady yourself to your feet or push off the nightstand. Feel good about yourself if you've only done two of these things before touching the bathroom door and the light switch. Those of us who still fall to our knees and pray as soon as we rise can add three or more touches to the count: Touch count:7-11

On to the bathroom:

Houses have had bathrooms indoors since ancient Rome. Before the 1986 builds, homes had no (on-suite) bathroom in the primary bedrooms. The 1986 bathroom would bring back the grand indulgences of the Romans, who surrounded themselves with plush beauty during their ablutions. This elevation of the primary bathroom from the "necessary room" called to its reign as the cornerstone of the main suite

 I'm lucky to have a three-piece bathroom within the main bedroom unit (on-suite). I still would have to touch the knob both ways: in and out, which makes me question the washing techniques of my nursing staff.

I have been paralyzed for twenty-five years and need help with everything. To eat, someone must prepare, plate, and feed me. There are plenty of steps between my bedside and returning to pick up germs. I'm not a "germaphobe," but maybe we should all still live daily as we did during the pandemic. This writing assignment opened my eyes to how many things I touch and how many germs we come in contact with daily, just inside our personal spaces.

Common shared spaces:

We live comfortably in the living room, just as its name suggests. We were lounging in less clothing and laying our face where someone's butt was yesterday…. oh, gross! Everyone touches the remote control repeatedly without cleaning it daily. We may remember to wipe it if someone is sick, but the whole family shares the common cold by then. Some homes may have landlines, although they are going the way of the dinosaurs; thankfully, can you imagine the shared germs if we were still tethered to a wall-mounted phone? Each finger hole of a rotary or the buttons on a keypad. Please don't get me disgusted about touching your ear to the receiver and your lips connecting the outgoing end of the handheld device.

The kitchen was the second largest contaminated room in any home in the 5th grade when I swabbed ten different places to observe under the microscope for my project. Of course, you expect the trashcan to be germ-filled. The refrigerator door strip was worse than the garbage can because the moisture collected between the accordion folds. Then, I swabbed the counter next to the stovetop. It varied in severity to the other end, closer to the sink. The worst place in the kitchen was the drain.

So, I tested the doorknobs around the house just as I thought the bathroom close to the entryway was the most contaminated, second by the half bath at the bottom of the steps. When I helped my children with the same experiment when they were in the 5th grade, one child only swabbed the ten Q-tips around the bathroom:

1.       Around the faucet   2. Inside the medicine cabinet  3. The soap dish       4. The vanity drainplug            

5. The toilet seat.                             6. The back of the tank.                          7. Around the base of the toilet 8. The showerhead

9. The baseboard behind the toilet                                                   10. The light switch

To my dismay, the baseboard behind the toilet had as much fecal contaminants as the faucet and the soap dish. When you flush the bathroom with the lid open, you allow 100 times more germs to be spread airborne.

When I started researching this subject, I was determined to show how many things we touch in twenty-four hours, but that quickly scared me. Especially when I thought about money and remembered my girlfriend's daughter, a teller who did something I used to do with new bills: wet her thumb on her tongue to count faster. That thought was alarming! Babies and pets learn, explore, and discover through touch and taste. They pick up everything and put it straight in their mouths. As parents, we need to keep all toys disinfected.

The world has been able to reopen and return to business as usual. Was the pandemic as bad as they said? Are the immunizations, boosters, and hand washing all we need to do?

Some say YES, so what do you say to those who didn't take the shots? I am not saying they were wrong or right in either group. Don't ask, don't tell!

Remember, at the beginning, I said I was happy to be paralyzed and would explain…. Here it is: I was free to refuse touch without everyone thinking I was rude. Twenty-six years ago, I was a "touchy-feely" person who did not care about germs. 1998's car accident left me a C5-6 tetraplegic, also known as quadriplegia. I attended church on Mother's Day in the third month of my new life and rehabilitation program. I was in the hospital still and had not seen most of the members from Mt. Zion. They were glad to see me and know I was a survivor. I was happy for the same reasons and more.

That day did a few things:

1.       Gave many a new reason to rejoice

2.       Allowed me to see many people who I hadn't seen in almost four months

3.      It also shared germs

That day taught me that I needed to be aware of my bubble and maintain a 3ft. perimeter. I was ill for a week after close-up conversations, hugs, and kisses.

Those hugs nearly killed me!

September 02, 2023 03:50

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Anna E. Walters
00:40 Sep 07, 2023

Kimberly, Thank you for sharing your story. You give your reader a candid glimpse of what you had to deal with during the pandemic and how it has changed your perspective. I agree with Mary B: you're an inspiration.


Kimberly Walker
23:35 Sep 07, 2023

Thank You... This story happened in 1998, but I feared the pandemic like everyone.


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Mary Bendickson
19:31 Sep 02, 2023

Kimberly, you are an inspiration.🧑‍🦼God bless you.


Kimberly Walker
22:44 Sep 02, 2023

Thanks! Besides, what did you take away from the rabbit hole I got sucked into?


Mary Bendickson
23:02 Sep 02, 2023

We all need to take heed of germs that can kill.


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Kimberly Walker
02:17 Sep 03, 2023

I only decided to write about this week's topic on Thursday at 3a.m.


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