First Dose (of Reality)

May 17, 2021 12:09 p.m.

Earlier today, myself and a dozen others stood in a line, two metres apart, and filed through the vaccination centre. We were the privileged few, a small part of a global effort that would probably never end in the developing world. I winced at the thought of the needle but steadied myself with a fact: it would not hurt more than losing a family member to this hideous virus. (I was spared this loss but millions were not.)

My nurse withdrew the dose from a minute glass vial. The “vaccine” is a refined invention, I think. Antibiotics are life-saving but brutish, destroying everything in their path, including our lush ecosystem of gut bacteria. Vaccines are more tactful. They make use of the body’s natural defence system. We introduce the immune system to the virus and the system, an eager student, learns.

After the shot, I sat in the waiting area for my allotted 15 minutes and wondered what it is about viruses that catch the immune system so off guard. Is it the shape of them? The feel of them? The way they move? The way they dodge the immune system—ducking, shifting, mutating? The way they act when no one else is around? The way they act when they are elated? Scared? Detecting no side effects, I wandered home.

Unlike my immune system, I will never have the opportunity to examine the virus up-close, yet over the past year I have seen enough to acknowledge its complexity: the virus is invisible, yet impossible to ignore; microscopic yet larger than life. For all its intricacy, it is, at its base, an indiscriminate murderer without a cause, sparing 40-year-olds and killing children, sparing children and killing 40-year-olds.

If only there was a vaccine to prime body and mind for the trials of the everyday. The bite of an argument, the sting of rejection from a lover, the uproar of a global pandemic. So you knew just what to expect.

MC