Mary did not wish me to visit Scott in his final days but that did not stop me nor did the fear. For the first time in my life I embraced another man so I might catch the virus and do battle with it. The matador does not run from the bull. The hunter does not flee from the charging beast. Courage is in the facing of death and the conquering of it.

I did not regret the loss of taste and smell. I drank whatever I liked. The burn was the same. I was less distracted by meals and focused again on my work. I did not wish to write books. I wished to write a stronger world.

I had work documents drafted to travel abroad. It was easy and I was free again, while the cowards of the world were caged in their homes like the bulls before the running. I would free them that they might run and be strong if only to die in the ring. Living in confinement and fear is worse than death.

I would not wear a mask. The airline stewardess trembled in fear as I refused the disinfectant wipe she offered. I stared at her and she did not give the prepared speech. I had learned in the woods in Michigan that to be healthy one must be exposed to the elements. I laid my head on the tray table. My hands were caked with dried whiskey. I would not wash them. I wished to absorb more of the enemy.

When offered hand sanitizer, I drank it straight. The people in the streets spoke of social distances and curfews as they backed away from me. I pitied them, all muzzled like dogs. I prefer cats. I wrote to Mary to check on my cats and she urged me to be safe. I paid her no mind, women can be irrational. She did not understand the nature of my work and I would not explain it to her.

I wandered and spread the virus. I sat in the rain outside La Closerie des Lilas and muttered in French at the careless pedestrians, spraying droplets through my beard. In Havana, I prowled the town, watching carefully for agents. I docked my boat at every open port. I could only be so careful. The Agency caught me and brought me back. They told me I was responsible for the virus’s continued existence. I was proud. They told me millions had died. But I knew that more had survived. My work had been hard and true and the world was stronger.