I went in to work yesterday to be asked:
” Have you heard about the vaccine? “
” No. What’s happened? “
“If you want it, you have to sign up today, and you can get it as early as Monday”.
I was loopy: ecstatic. Amazed.
“What? Really? Oh my god. YATTA!! YES! FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!’
I will admit I did dance a little, and even sang the chorus of Handel’s Hallelujah, but quickly felt dampened by the muted pressure in the teacher’s room. A sense of……… this is an uncomfortable topic. ‘It is a delicate issue, so we must not speak our thoughts openly in case we offend another person’ type of deal. Dullsville, thought I. Christ. Jesus. Can’t I even have a moment of unadulterated excitement, just once, at such a historic time, when all I want and have wanted and have been able to think about for over a year like most rational people is getting this shot in my arm so I don’t have to think about it any more? Why isn’t anyone looking especially pleased? Not now.
The news couldn’t possibly have come at a better time. I was almost at the end of my tether this week, truly starting to lose it. Worryingly so, D telling me I was going to have a heart attack. Stuck on a 50 minute train ride in crowded conditions, on Wednesday, ill-advisedly reading two terrifying articles in the New York Times about whole neighbourhoods wiped out in New Delhi, bodies left on the streets uncollected outside houses, utterly awful;the personal experience of a top Japanese-American surgeon who was touch and go on a ventilator…….by the time I got to my destination I was gasping like a lacerated fish. I had a meltdown; tachycardia. A feeling of not being able to take any more. Of nothing happening. Of just going on in this numbing but perilous situation and feeling permanently scared.
So I had decided to take action. I started making plans with a rebellious and unconventional Japanese colleague and friend of mine at the company to get the vaccine by hook or by crook; by any means necessary, even underhand. Lying if necessary. I didn’t care. Fiddle the system. I had to have the vaccine. And that was all. We were planning ways to go on a ‘vaccine adventure’ to the mass inoculation sites in Tokyo in Otemachi and take our chances. Find a way. ( I am only half exaggerating). I really have felt that I have been getting very close to the edge.
So to be told – out of the blue, no inkling that we would all be immediately eligible – that what I have been aching; desperate for, had suddenly, unexpectedly become a reality was like a boulder being dislodged in a river. Heaven. Which is why I found myself tearing up intermittently throughout the day; emotions surging through. To me, it is beyond obvious that vaccination is the way to get us out of this situation: the statistics prove it; epidemiologists and virus specialists are adamant about it, it is common sense; obliviously simple; but no: the three people sitting nearest to me told me with a slight sense of embarrassment (but also I thought I detected some form of pride as well) that they were definitely were not intending to have the jab.
‘Really? My god, I am so excited. Why?”
Seriously? And each gave his reasons: wanting to ‘wait a little longer’ (????!!!!!!!!!!! with the Olympics around the corner?) : a nervousness, a profound sense of caution and wariness of side effects: three out of the six present. In the school I went to afterwards nearby, two abstainers out of seven, one unsure. No one happy. Heads down, working. No one exuberant, apart from me. Just a normal day on the job.
I had no option but to completely block them out of my mind. I was screaming to get out of there, but also too happy to be exasperated any more. I have so much anger stored up in me and it has affected my health. I just want to get back to normal, to teach – which I do actually enjoy – without feeling asphyxiated. To see their faces again. To not have to think about respiration. Surely this should now be a turning point, a move in a more wonderful direction. And, up to a point, I respect the vaccine skeptics’ decisions. I do think that declining the vaccination is their choice: being forced to be injected carries a certain level of moral repugnance for me. That goes without saying. The whole ‘I control what is put in my body’ movement is neither ideologically left nor right; it is more a deep personal conviction, the drawing of a personal line in the sand. ‘You will not inject me with an unknown substance that could be hazardous to my health when up to now I have been fine as I am. Just in my mask. Going on as usual’. I know it’s up to them. Personally I think it is completely stupid, mind you, and reckless, given that we are teachers FFS but you know, I was too much in my own moment – and what a moment it was, yesterday! – to let myself be touched too much by all this excessive caution, passive aggression, possible xenophiba (it is not a homegrown vaccine) and stubbornness. If they want to get corona, fine.
Later on in the evening, after terrible lessons – I just wanted out of there: (D was meeting me later for cans in the park): I can’t think of another time in my life when I have more wanted a >>FFWD button, to just fast forward to the night; I just wanted to breathe and be alone or with him and celebrate this fantastic news. This feeling of total exhilaration.
Before leaving, I had to go up to the head office to have someone help me fill in the application forms – the procedure itself has unfortunately been put off by a week, due to some logistical issue, even if it is still possible that I could still have it as early as next Saturday. But just the fact that there were application forms to fill had me beaming from ear to ear; the reality there in front of me. My Japanese supervisor’s eyes were brimming with glee as well: no mask can hide such happiness. He had a real bounce in his step, a sense of YES. FINALLY WE CAN GET OUT OF THIS NIGHTMARE.
‘Are you having the vaccine?’ I had said the moment I walked in.
As if any other option could only have been formed in the mind of a total imbecile.
I couldn’t stop talking when I met D. I talked his ear off, blabbering and swigging back beer, feeling an unloosening. A panorama expanding. And when we got home, we sat on the balcony, where I have been slowly constructing a lush, tropical garden with a coconut tree, banana, pineapple, orchids, birds of paradise, hanging plants, our private haven (if you can’t go out anywhere, you make your own world). He fell asleep with the soft rain falling beyond, just the sound of water on leaves and the smell of the air, and then eventually went to bed. I myself ended up sitting there all night. ALL NIGHT. Until dawn. Just lost in my thoughts, feeling the rain pattering; my heart opening gratefully to the scent of Madagascan jasmine.