Then we waited. Family and neighbors delivered us groceries, leaving them on the front porch like gifts from kindly elves. The kids had a few bad nights, then started to improve. We tried to take walks in the neighborhood (the E.R. doctors had recommended it), but quickly found that the narrow sidewalks required us to constantly circle away from our neighbors, which required shouted explanations that provoked bemusement in some cases, fright in others. So we drove instead, looking for deserted corners of state parks, an empty greensward near a monastery, anywhere with grass and air and little chance of human contact.

Five days went by with no test results. My symptoms stabilized, fluctuated and then ebbed a little; my wife’s mostly went away. We had friends in Minnesota who were having a similar experience: Their family had been on a Disney cruise just before the lockdowns (they are True Americans) and come back with an illness; it seemed like a flu for most of them, but the husband, a man of very different physique and temperament from me, had my symptoms — shortness of breath, chest tension, windedness.

Finally, we received my results; the sample had apparently been sent to the wrong lab and the lab had called the wrong doctor’s office to report them. The test was negative. Trying to explain my symptoms, our doctor speculated about flus that cause asthmatic attacks in otherwise healthy people.