“Are you in a high-risk job?” the pharmacist asked. “Do you have a preexisting condition?”
“Ex-smoker,” I admitted, and she laughed.
“I got mine because I'm obese. We both need to make better choices.”
I couldn't argue with that. Just the other day I bought a pack of cigarettes and smoked two while wandering through Fountain Square alleys, killing time before an appointment. November, man. I don't know what it is about this month in particular but it always seems to crack things apart.
The pharmacist ushered me to a waiting area, and I killed a few minutes trying to install Microsoft Teams on my phone before someone came along to give me the shot. It was quick and mostly painless. The man with the needle looked very young, and wore a pair of leather slip-on loafers. He complained about the sticker placement on my vaccine card – “There's not really room for me to add another one” – but was otherwise cheerful. I sat a few minutes to make sure there'd be no adverse reaction, then went off to do some Thanksgiving shopping.
As with my last shot in April, the side effects didn't really kick in until late that night. I woke up sweating and shivering, then stumbled into the bathroom to pee. I was about halfway finished when I got very lightheaded and nauseous. I took a few deep breaths and tried to pee harder while clutching the side of the sink. Hurry hurry, I thought, get it all out. If I was going to faint, I at least wanted to minimize the bodily fluids my wife would soon find me lying in.
But I managed not to pass out or vomit, and made it back into bed to keep sleeping. Finally I woke up aching and tired, and killed most of the morning watching Night Court reruns. When I was a kid, the local Fox affiliate started rerunning Night Court at four o'clock in the morning. I would set my alarm clock so I could wake up, watch two episodes, then go back to sleep before school. I'm not sure why, exactly, except that Judge Harold T. Stone appealed to me in the same way as Groucho Marx or Bugs Bunny. I loved the idea that you could excuse yourself from adult reality with a few quips and card tricks. I still do.
After a little coffee and breakfast I began to feel better, and so went back to the book I've been reading, The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson. Right now in the novel, Revie's mother has left her husband and son to pursue her dreams of acting, and Revie is trying to figure out how to pull his family back together. He ends up in his local church, where Hip Pastor Mike tries to offer him some advice:
“Here's what I'm driving at,” he said. “God builds the universe on circular tracks. The bad part of this deal is that what we love goes away – our faith slips, we turn our backs on God's grace, we lose the ones we love.”
He paused, looking at the drum kit so long it seemed like he'd lost the thread of his thought. Then he leaned back and draped his arm over the pew again. “But the good news is that the track bends. Sometimes so gently that we start coming around without ever realizing it. Seasons change. The runner turns onto the homestretch. The son comes home and the father runs out to welcome him.”
But Revie isn't convinced.
“You should stick with God,” I said, getting up to leave. “Leave that universe business to the scientists. You obviously don't know what you're talking about.”
I walked toward the big swinging doors, leaving him, I hoped, dumbstruck. And maybe he was. But not long enough for me to make it out of the sanctuary.
“Hey,” he called. “Why'd you come here today?”
I glanced back, tossed up my hands. Even if I'd known, I wasn't about to confess anything else to him.
“Everything orbits,” he said, turning his back on me. “Even you.”
My wife also got her booster on Friday, and also went out to buy groceries. Being so close to the holidays, and with all of the ongoing shortages, we agreed we would shop the same list and get whatever we could. If we ended up with a few duplicates, so be it, but at least we'd cover our bases.
We ended up with doubles of everything, including oddballs like smoked paprika. We laughed a little at the absurdity of it all, like for an afternoon we'd been trapped in two parallel universes, living the same lives at a distance. Her side effects from the shot were minimal, though two days later there's a swollen spot on her arm the size of a walnut, while mine has no swelling at all.
While I was chewing up Tylenol and watching Night Court on the couch, my wife went next door to check on our neighbor's ducks. By evening I was feeling much better, so I went to help her put them away in their coop. The ducks are no more used to this routine than they were when we watched them two months ago. They still run around back and forth like they have no idea what we expect them to do. Then one of them will finally get the right idea and run inside of the coop. After that, like a charm, the rest of them follow. It's the same routine every time.