Memory vaccine

Build, build, build. A messenger from the enemy bears a letter with instructions. My cells listen and begin to build. Hundreds of spikes are forming, inside. The messenger is a false friend. The spikes are traitors. My own personal army catches the betrayal. They do not know what are these spikes and what is their purpose; they do not care. No. They gather their forces to attack. Attack, attack, attack. A great battle ensues, one that will lead to many deaths. The spikes are ruthless, they will not go down easily. The messenger from the enemy is compelling; more of my cells betray me, follow its instructions. More spikes form. My personal army must experiment, call for reinforcements, drain blood from my brain, We’re givin’ her all she’s got! The battle is ruthless but the messenger will die and then it will end, the spikes will be overwhelmed, my personal army will be battered but victorious, and most importantly, it will come away with a gift: a memory. 

Yesterday I was pricked with an mRNA vaccine. mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid but mRNA vaccines should stand for memory vaccines. Although what is a memory but a message from the past? 

The other day I was in the woods when a great solemn shadow flew overhead; I looked up to see a red-tailed hawk, soaring on a thermal, circling above me, keeping its wings perfectly still, with lush white feathers with a streak of brown and a tail that glowed pink, searching for something to kill. 

There’s a woodpecker that lives near my house that I hear pecking almost every morning but am never able to find it, even with binoculars; it’s probably hiding behind some tree, just beyond my field of vision; it doesn’t want to be found. 

When it was dark this winter I missed the sun terribly but went for walks at night anyway, sometimes finding joy in the various streetlights from all angles, creating many me-shaped shadows that interact with one another, disappear, conjoin, fall away. 

It’s cherry blossom season in DC, but it’s not just the cherries; every flowering tree has come open with force. Normally my favorite part is gently shaking a branch of a flowering tree and letting the petals fall like rain, but we’ve had gusty winds every day since peak bloom; every spare petal has already fallen. 

In an era where we are largely stuck at home, we are all becoming more acquainted with our dreams and memories. Oftentimes it doesn’t feel like enough; we want more, we want the real thing. But there’s something to be said for a memory, a message, a shadow, a reflection, a falling; for the things that represent real things, for the representations themselves. 

I have a plane ticket to Wisconsin in July. Soon I will be able to hug my mother and do “the Robbins laugh” with my brothers and chase my little nieces and nephews, who, after refusing to stop growing for two straight years, are suddenly not so little. I have three months more to wait before then. But my dreams will suffice in the meantime.


Seth + vaccine nurse at CVS. Brought to you by Dunkin’, our post-vaccine treat.

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