There was something about a needle penetrating one’s right shoulder, the content of the syringe entering one’s body, introducing a foreign fluid that is, it is hoped, going to bolster one’s immunity against this virus.
There was something about the volunteer nurse, fully covered in personal protective equipment, who held the syringe as if it’s an extension of her finger as it probes into one’s orifice.
There was something about this nurse’s face, hidden from one’s sight, behind the facemask and plastic face shield that, when used together, according to this government, will reduce the probability of her, along with all the health workers like her, from getting the virus from the thousands of people she vaccinates every day (or will keep her from spreading the contagion to the people she inoculates in the event she has it).
There was something about the rapidity with which she pressed the plunger, the quickness and deliberateness in her movements because whatever delay she incurred would have repercussions on when her day would come to a close.
There was something about that imagined smirk/smile on her face after she’s pulled the needle out of one’s shoulder, she looking content with the fact that the fluid had been administered without much wastage or anything that can be considered a freak accident–the needle breaking, perhaps, while it was still lodged in one’s flesh.
There was something about the volunteer nurse’s nonchalance and sangfroid as she avoided looking at the direction of a woman screaming as if she was in front of her house being devoured by a conflagration as she was being jabbed at the same time as this writer was.
I had my first of two vaccine jabs this afternoon in Pedro P. Cruz Elementary School in Mandaluyong. I received yesterday an SMS from the administration of the condominium where I am staying that my vaccination was scheduled for 1pm today.
I got in the area, a medium-sized public primary school tucked in a residential area before one reaches Pasig River that leads to Makati, 30 minutes before my time, but since my name was in the list, the entire procedure was a breeze.
I filled out some requisite forms, showed my identification, then was shepherded, together with a few other people who have a knack for answering government forms very quickly, to the waiting nurses who were brandishing their prepared syringes like they’re sincerely wanting to be of service to this government who is fighting a sluggish war against the virus.
This before I signed a document that I was fully aware that I was to get Sinovac, assuring me that it’s safe, but that I have to psych myself up in case my body reacts violently to their vaccine. Fearing this would be my only chance of getting a vaccine, and that my application in Quezon City will be overlooked or that the other one in Loyola Heights gets ignored, I reluctantly, but careful not to show it, walked towards the anonymous volunteer nurse who failed to hide from me, despite her being fully clothed in PPE, the excitement that bubbled up from within her to introduce her hypodermic needle into my flesh.
I lingered in the “observation area” for a good thirty minutes, twenty minutes longer than I was told I could, while I awaited my partner to pick me up. I resisted the urge to take a selfie in front of the tarpaulin wall to document my completion of the first vaccine.
I left through the back door of the school and found myself in a quiet street lined with trees. I took a couple of turns, happy to see, finally, my partner, after not having seen each other for a week following a fight, waiting for me outside.
The people of this country have bought into this city-mayor-turned-president’s lies.
Since the pandemic began in March last year, I’ve taken the public transport only a couple of times. The drudgery is enough to make one realize that the Filipino commuters are made up of one very hardy and resilient group of people who have long realized the only way to get through this on a daily basis is to kill one’s ability to be enraged and to resign oneself to that quiet acceptance that the government they’ve put in power to lead them is made up of a bunch of incompetent, heartless, corrupt, and uncaring people.
As for the people in government, they can rejoice all they want as they have finally killed what is left of the spirit of the Filipino; no one is going to be interested in making this administration accountable for the mess we are in.
The Filipino people have been duped by this government, again. And for this, the poor, as has always been the case, have to suffer.
Maybe, we as a people will find redemption in the after life, where God and his angels will meet us in paradise, trumpets ablaring.
I want to go home now, hold my mother’s hand, and tell her how much I love her and that I wish I were her young son of 9 again.
It has been more than seven months since we’re forced to stay home and to change the way we lived.
For the most part, it was not exactly that difficult for me as I had spent most of it with my partner, spending quiet days working, reading, cooking simple meals, walking the girls, and talking about anything that caught our fancy.
There were, nonetheless, days when we had hoped they’d end quickly or that the other disappeared or shut up, but these days were very rare. What they lacked in frequency, though, they made up for in intensity and degree.
Other than the death and run-away unemployment figures, the pandemic, when this is all finished, will have incalculable impact on everyone’s mental health–not a single one of us will be spared.
I kept myself from being consumed by my fear of losing my job, having contracted the virus, going down the dark pit and not being able to come out intact, dying. But these thoughts had been artificially set aside in the seldom-opened cupboards of my mind because I was with another human whom I promised to stick with no matter what, whose fears are similar to mine, and so having these shared fears had this uncanny way or dissipating them in each other.
The tension in our relationship, however, proved too strong it finally pulled the string that kept us together way beyond its ultimate tensile strength, straining and stretching it until it finally snapped.
I left the place and found a studio near the place where my older sister and her family live. For the past days I’ve been trying to get used to solitude once again, to sleep unaccompanied, to have meals alone, to seek out ways to occupy the hours, to establish homeostasis all over again.
Perhaps the experience will bring me back here. To writing.
I also have been looking for a motorcycle I can ride to go around Manila, feel the wind on my face on days when solitude proves unbearable, or let me escape my thoughts while other more immediate actions concern me–keeping my balance, dodging cars that hurtle towards me, or just deciding which gear to use.
We all are in need of escape every now and then, and we do it in countless, often weird, ways, but they all serve a singular purpose, to free our minds from the constant reminder of the absurd.
I cannot say, ‘finally.’ But I’ll work hard to finish this.