THE SECOND PFIZER shot wasn’t nothing, but it wasn’t bad, for me. I felt more run-down the day before the shot than I did the day after, although the latter came with a throbbing rotator cuff in the injection shoulder and a sort of slowed-down fuzziness. I stared blankly out the window at the apartment tower across the avenue I’ve been looking at for six years—a tower I lived in, before that—and suddenly noticed that one of the upper floors was taller than the ones above and below it. I would have declared under oath that they were all the same.
I had been dreading the second-shot side effects yet also, honestly, kind of looking forward to them. I didn’t want to end up like the one friend who spent the night vomiting, but there was an undeniable appeal to the thought of letting the shot knock you over, just a bit. It was knocking other people over, one by one, and it seemed to be meeting a very real need they all had, just to shut it down for a day or two.
I don’t doubt that the side effects are genuine. As the owner of a 49-year-old lumbar region, I have come to deeply and directly appreciate the complexities of how mind and body work together to construct the realities of health, positive and negative alike. I’ve felt week-long chest pain subside moments after the doctor agreed with me that it seemed to be nothing more than strained rib cartilage, and a possibly broken toe stop throbbing once it became clear that getting x-rays would be a hassle and wouldn’t change the treatment any.
So I was ready for the Pfizer to lay me out. After a year of the virus lurking, uncontrollable, in the background, what could be better than getting sick for a limited time, on schedule? Before the lockdowns even began, Hmm Weekly was arguing that everyone should immediately take a sick week. Now the New York Times is advocating a holiday for everyone. What the body can’t get from the authorities, it will take on its own.
Or so I thought. I drank a lot of seltzer and orange juice, and I took some Tylenol at bedtime, and I woke up feeling somewhere on the bad end of normal. In my heart, I would rather have been sick than working, but my immune system wouldn’t give me a break.