• Mike Matson

The Narrative

This column was published February 5, 2022 in the Manhattan Mercury.


Thursday, January 27. Transitioning between day jobs, I say goodbye to the Board of Directors in the top floor boardroom. Suit and tie. All business. One at a time, they get up to shake my hand, then applaud me out of the room. Humbling, flattering and the right way to leave a job. None of us are wearing masks.

That evening, I develop a bit of a cough, sore throat and minor congestion. No fever.

Friday, January 28. Up early, as always. Symptoms same as the night before. Sit down at the dining room table for a test. The blue line shows up right away, as if to scream at me, what did you expect, genius?

Since omicron, given the outward-facing nature of my life, the ongoing question in our household has been not “if,” but “when?” Armed with a solid answer on the latter and still unsure of my exposure window, we will mitigate as best we can (isolate at home, separate bedrooms/bathrooms) fortified with peace of mind knowing the vax/booster will keep us out of the hospital and heaven.

A big part of me has evolved to “let me get it,” recover, nurture my antibodies and move on already.

This was the day we were to celebrate Christmas with my son’s family in Kansas City. Postponed a second time. The first time because COVID serpentined through his family. By the time we get these gifts to them the baby will have outgrown half his Christmas haul.

Postpone a Kansas Day dinner with some friends with whom we’ve been trying to get in the same room for what seems like a year now. Sorry, guys.

Saturday, January 29. Post the Kansas flag on the front of the house. Fifty-five degrees and sunshine. January in Kansas. Symptoms all but gone. I land on “mild” versus “asymptomatic” as the money adjective for my COVID narrative.

Start the afternoon in the basement. Ole Miss doesn’t. Miss, that is. The Cats do. I adjourn to an Adirondack chair on the deck. If you’re going to be a fair weather fan, it helps to have fair weather.

Sunday, January 30. Anxiety creeps in and settles around noon. Unpacking it, I trace it to the Chiefs, followed by the recognition that my fandom used to produce excitement, not anxiety. There’s a difference. Note to self: Losing a football game wasn’t the problem, getting all worked up that a loss was possible was the problem.

Monday, January 31. The mild symptoms are even more mild (see how that narrative works?)

My son’s birthday. He texts from Florida, vacationing with his family. “Weather is perfect and pool is heated.” The kid learned well.

Tuesday, February 1. Significant in-person meetings on the calendar. Back to the dining room table. If it’s negative, good to go. If positive, more isolation.

Blue line again. Perplexing, because I feel fine. Maybe I should have landed on “asymptomatic.” That’s the problem with narratives. Once launched, changing them becomes tricky (read: CDC guidance).

A community committee I chair meets on Zoom. We developed a virtual rhythm in 2020 and fell right back into it. Utterances of “You’re muted, Steve,” down drastically.

Horror stories on social media about empty supermarket shelves. A perfect storm of ice, snow, workforce, supply chain and a lot of people freaking out.

Wednesday, February 2. Eighteen degrees, snow and ice. Freakout unwarranted. It’s February in Kansas.

The deadline for this column is not until 5 p.m. Thursday, but Thursday’s jammed with more side hustle and community/statewide commitments. The new day job doesn’t formally start until later this month, but there are myriad informal expectations and I’d like to meet them.

Thursday, February 3. Finished the column. Met the deadline. Back to the dining room table. Still positive.

The narrative continues.


Friday, February 4. Test negative. Narrative fades into story-telling.