I’m sitting on a colourful plastic chair in a repurposed sports hall. Legs crossed, my eyes are drawn time and again to the large screens presenting slide after slide of healthy lifestyle advice with pandemic themed gifs. ‘You can take off the face mask now’, a girl in a blue hi-vis jacket tells me almost imperatively. I feel a bit like Pavlov’s dog forced to enjoy positive reinforcement, although most likely, she was just scared that I might faint.
The withdrawing of the needle had felt like I was being flossed in between my cells. She presses some cotton wool against the site of the injection of the pride of Leiden University. ‘Now you can take place over there and wait 10 to 15 minutes’, my charming injector said as she pressed the emblematic plaster to my left shoulder; for many, the pride of selfless heroism and potential holiday freedom, for others the mark of shame and blind servitude. ‘Do I have to?’, I asked. She looked me in the eye and said with an authoritative smile: ‘It is strongly advised, if you leave, that will be at your own risk.’
Part of me wants to walk back over to the lady and ask her to take the vaccine out again. I wonder how she would respond
So there I sit, trying to feel some relaxation settle in my body, which, legend has it, may be so sudden that it knocks one out cold. But I feel nothing of this relaxation. I just look around at my fellow pandemic victims and observe a little voice in my head parroting the conspiracy theories I have read over the last months with a mixture of amusement and sympathy. Part of me wants to walk back over to the lady, who is now probably vaccinating her next semi-coerced victim, and ask her to take the vaccine out again. I wonder how she would respond, and I guess she would smile and call somebody else to deal with this hysterical nutcase.
I didn’t want the vaccine, I don’t agree with many of the ways in which our politicians have dealt with the crisis. But in the end, I figured I don’t agree with most things. I don’t actually expect the vaccine to have side effects any more dire than plastic packaging. I didn’t want the mRNA ones, I know they theoretically cannot possibly affect your DNA, but I figured I trust my gut feeling, if only for the illusion of choice.
‘You look so zen’, the girl in blue has walked over, probably trying to figure out why she is being paid so much for this job. I smile at her. ‘What makes you say that?’ She shrugs. ‘You’re not even on your phone.’ Ah yes, I think, one of our many other pandemics. I just smile
, and look at the clock. God knows what time I sat down, so I just get up and walk past the empty chairs occupied by the occasional screen-lit face.
‘You can take off the face mask’, I hear a man bark at a disoriented student as I walk into the daylight.