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22nd May

Side effects or how getting the vaccine has made me milder

Last week, I had my first Covid vaccine. The whole process was efficient: I got the jab before I knew it and was on my way back home within twenty minutes. I could hardly believe it had really, finally, happened.

But the next day I got proof that I had indeed been vaccinated. I woke up feeling as though lead were running through my veins. I immediately recognized that fatigue from the more than thirty years I took HIV medication with far more side-effects than the cutting-edge combination I have now.

Looking back, when I’m searching for inspiration in my old journals, I’m often annoyed by how much time I spent complaining about those side-effects.

When Felipe and I were living in the United States in the late eighties, I only fleetingly mentioned the desolate urban landscape of abandoned buildings and empty parking lots. I said little about the isolation of the suburbs, where everyone is locked up in their own box and the streets are deserted. But I did write extensively about the fog in my head and the nausea caused by the anti-retroviral medication I was taking.

I recently encountered an entry that was written in a wild park in Sri Lanka, when an elephant emerged from the river, wading through the water until it entered the compound of our hotel not far from where I was sitting. I noted it briefly but said nothing about how I or the other guests and staff of the hotel reacted; instead, many pages were devoted to my frustration about feeling too exhausted to enjoy the trip.

In yet another notebook I wrote how, late at night Felipe and I ended up by chance at a concert in Oman where singers from all over the Arab world inaugurated an open-air concert space. I would have loved to read more about how the men dressed in lilac robes and headscarves and the women covered in black sang together even though they were seated separately in opposite parts of the coliseum. But there were only a couple of short jottings on the event. Instead I wrote in detail about how drained I felt.

It irritated me to read over and over about how tired I was. I wanted more elaborate descriptions of the places I visited and the people I met, more couleur locale that I could reimagine for this blog.

When thinking about missed opportunities—and they certainly aren’t limited to my writing—I feel that I could have made more of my life. But when after my Covid shot I felt the same exhaustion that had plagued me all those years, I began to understand that fatigue is not something you can push aside with sheer willpower.

Two days after the vaccination I felt fine again. It was as though I had revisited a moment from the past to appreciate how good the present is. It was also a reminder to not be so hard on myself.

Side effects or how getting the vaccine has made me milder
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