The prick in my arm is momentary and soon it is being dutifully wiped by a pleasant nurse. He goes so far as to tell me that the Moderna is ‘the most expensive on the market’, which makes me feel suitably fancy. I tell him, deadpan, that this is because it was personally designed by Dolly Parton. Unimpressed, he tells me he does not believe this to be the case. I quietly congratulate myself for not asking if I get a free lollipop, a dad joke so repulsively tempting, it has taken all of my willpower to resist.
I’m sitting in a vaccine centre in Guy’s Hospital and I am cheerful. As previously stated, a childhood spent watching action films about lab-grown super soldiers means I quite like injections, since they make me feel powerful and strong. This jab, of course, holds even deeper feelings.
I’m the last of my 10 siblings to get my first dose. My younger siblings Fionnuala and Conall will probably say they only jumped the queue ahead of me because they, respectively, work with children, or live with vulnerable people. But I like to think it’s because I look so dashingly vigorous the NHS simply refuse to believe I’m not many years younger than records indicate. You’d know this if you ever accompanied me to Sainsbury’s and witnessed the impressive amount of times a cashier has asked me to pull down my mask to check if I’m old enough to buy wine and, even then, sometimes take a while to decide, due to my smooth skin and lively eyes.
Days later, I’ll be feeling pretty rubbish. My puncture site will go hard, giving me the reassuring feeling of having big tense, muscles or, at the very least, one big tense muscle located right in my upper arm. The other effects will be exactly the same as when I had Covid – fever, joint pain, lethargy – but compressed into a few days, rendering me mostly useless and vocally pathetic. This will be a delight to all around me, before I recover just as fast.
I will be told, by every single person to whom I complain, that those who’ve had Covid before are more likely to get a severe reaction like mine. I will boggle at the counterinuitiveness of this notion. It would seem logical – not to mention fair – that someone who’d already bravely beaten the disease would fare better with a visit from its little cousin. This was, I thought, a battle my body had already won, and quite recently in the grand scheme of things, and yet here it is, my feckless, stupid immune system, scrambling to remember its lines.
Perhaps it’s simply suffered the same memory hole as humanity more generally. How many of us could confidently remember things we did at an early stage of the pandemic? We have all, of course, forgotten what happened at the end of Tiger King and Normal People. Does even one person reading this recall what banana bread is?
All of this is ahead of me in Guy’s, however, as I take my seat in the post-jab waiting area and am handed a sticker by a kindly guard. ‘What – no lollipop?’ I say, hating myself entirely.
Follow Séamas on Twitter @shockproofbeats