Notes from self-isolation

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grazianoHome testing for Covid has become routine to the point of perfunctory. If you sneeze a few times, there’s an itch in your throat, or you sniffle, you take a Covid test, wait 15 minutes, pop some aspirin and go on with your day.

Until that day you glance down at the plastic test cartridge and a bold pink line stares back at you like you kicked its puppy[1].

That happened to me on Tuesday afternoon.

I stopped home between my high school classes finishing and my college class starting at 5 p.m. I woke up that morning with a dry cough and the beginning of a head cold so I figured I’d be on the safe side and test before class.

Less than a minute after I squeezed the liquid drops in the test cartridge, the line started to appear, and I knew my plans for the next five days were about to be ransacked.

So, here I am, nearing the end of my stint of isolation in my house—mostly alone—and maybe my biggest takeaway so far involves the eradication of a certain tired phrase from my personal lexicon[2].

The phrase: “I’m too busy.”

There are people who seem to masochistically enjoy the condition of being busy and exasperated. They conflate a clogged schedule with the virtue of hard work.

But saying you’re too busy is really a disingenuous way of saying, “I won’t prioritize it.”

With so much time on my hands right now—and trying to avoid watching nine straight hours of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” while coughing on the couch—I’ve started thinking a lot about time, and particularly a lunch I had recently with some of my best friends from college[3].

Todd, Micah and I became friends in the dorm at then-Plymouth State College, and later we became fraternity brothers in the same pledge class in the mid-90s. It had been two decades since I’d been together with the two of these men.

We have all been busy.

We planned to meet on a Sunday afternoon in Manchester. Micah—who was driving to lunch from his family’s place in Laconia—had flown to East Coast for Thanksgiving from Portland, Oregon. Meanwhile, Todd was driving up from the Boston area. Todd and I still see each other periodically—although not nearly enough—but the three of us hadn’t sat down together since Todd’s wedding in 2002.

So we decided to meet at The Candia Road Brewing Company, and for those unfamiliar with the place, it is the closest one can get to the intimacy of someone’s home while drinking great beers and feasting on their gourmet hot dogs[4].

I arrived first, seeing it’s less than five minutes from my house, and sipped an IPA while listening to Weezer’s “Blue Album” in the background, a little nervous that the conversation might seem stilted by 20 years of catch-up.

But the opposite was the case.

Within minutes of Micah arriving and Todd showing up shortly afterward, we were transported back to a dorm room at Pemigewasset Hall blasting Alice in Chains beside a case of lukewarm Natural Light. The conversation was easy and effortless in the way that talking with good friends is always easy and effortless.

And timeless.

Why had we put this off for 20 years when we all know that real, true friendships in this world come at a tremendous premium? I’m sorry but “I’m too busy” doesn’t cut it as an excuse.

We weren’t too busy; we didn’t make it a priority. And hopefully, that never happens again.

The one thing my time in isolation[5] has afforded has been time itself, the time to slow down the world, and the time to respect the time I have.

By Monday morning, I’ll be sprung from house arrest and return to the busy world, but I’ll try not to be “too busy” for the things that really matter.


[1] Did I really just personify a Covid-testing strip? The CDC needs to investigate this and see if it can added to its list of virus symptoms, i.e. cough, body aches, fever, personifying test strips, headache, runny nose.

[2] I understand that we all had to isolate for much longer than five days during the pandemic; however, when everyone was isolating, my brain almost normalizes the condition. Now that I’m the only person I know currently isolated, the effect is starker.

[3] Before I was afflicted by the plague.

[4] No, I don’t work for the Candia Road Brewing Company. But it is a splendid place to spend an afternoon.

[5] I realize I’m not being held captive, but I’m also not that dick who goes in public while still infectious.


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About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: