Once I finally sat down in that chair, I felt I could relax. This was a bit odd since I was about to be stabbed with a needle and injected with a vaccine that was rushed through clinical trials and had, just recently, dropped my older brother like a stone after his second dose. Still, I couldn't help but feel that I had come to the end of a very long journey. A Hobbit-like trip there and back again. Not just the ten minute walk from my school to the high school where the vaccination station was set up. Or the three hours I stood in line, waiting. I was there in that line because all my attempts to get an appointment had been stymied by the web-gremlins and software demons. I was part of the walk-in rabble that had shown up in hopes of receiving one of the one hundred fifty doses set aside for educators like myself. The ones without an appointment. Now I am on the spot where so many have hoped to be, right on the precipice of being stabbed and given my return appointment for my second dose.
The one that would make me invulnerable.
Because it's been almost a year now of waiting and watching and wanting there to be a cure. An end to this madness. I have a visceral memory of that last day of school, back in March when other school districts around us were closing and somehow Oakland was not making the same announcement. Then all of a sudden they did, and almost without waring, everything changed. There was an infectious disease, a plague, that was finding its way into the very fabric of American society and creating a state of emergency like none of us had experienced before. Suddenly, our world shrank. I was stuck at home, which felt like a gift at first, but then it became apparent that if we did ignore the strictures and the guidelines, we could die. It was that simple. Wearing a mask and maintaining a safe distance and all those other behaviors were instilled in me as I watched hundreds of thousands around me die.
As I was standing in line to get my injection, I received the news that the priest who married my wife and I died. From COVID-19. When I was finally rewarded with my shot and that incredibly valuable vaccination card, I felt like I could breathe out. Breathing out is something I have been doing for the past eleven months, but I may have been taking it for granted. This was a lengthy exhalation that probably had the air of a satisfied sigh. I had made it through to the other side.
Part of me wants to parade about without a mask, licking elevator buttons and seeking out crowds. Not a big part. The big part of me is far too conditioned to The New Way. But my shoulder is sore, and that's a good thing.
It's been a very long, strange trip.