The Monique Vaccine

Thunderous applause shakes the town square

Max Brand, Untitled. 2019, acrylic, chalk, crayon, watercolor, ink, marker, and fineliner on canvas. 63 × 54". Photo by Wolfgang Günzel. Courtesy of the artist.

On November 15, 2021, Monique, a 49-year-old professor of German studies in an old German university town, received the third dose of her Covid vaccination. She’d been lucky enough in May to have gotten a first dose of AstraZeneca pretty much without trying (everything was totally disorganized: for some reason there weren’t enough shots, even though they’d been manufactured in Germany, and the vaccination process proceeded with wicked slownessat first it was only old people and hospice workers, then it was doctors, and everyone was just sitting at home and waiting dumbly for their turn, and officially it wasn’t supposed to be Monique’s turn until the end of July) and then she’d gone to Frankfurt in June to get her second dose from her father’s GP. And now, having consulted with whomever she could, she’d decided to get a Moderna booster. But there was a problem: at the end of 2021, the local doctors were only injecting patients with Pfizer-BioNTech. And her friend, who was the same age as her, had been overrun by a case of shingles after she’d received a second dose of Pfizer back in August. It had tormented her for almost three months. So Monique chose Moderna. An Impfbusa vaccination bussometimes rolled through her town and had Moderna, but there was always a line. Once a week, on Wednesdays, the bus came and sat in the central square, near the Rathaus. People arrived from neighboring villages to get shots. After getting in line at 9 AM and standing under a disgusting fine drizzle for almost three hours, Monique, too, got her shot. Just before nightfall she began to get chills and her temperature went up. After taking one paracetamol tablet and twenty drops of diazepam, she fell asleep.

And had a dream:

She drives up to the town’s central square in her Volvo, stops, gets out of the car. The square is full of people. The summer is hot, the sun shines brightly, hundreds of people are sitting at little tablesonly men, exclusively men, the square is full of men of various ages, from young dudes to the oldest of the old, drinking and relaxing. They all stand up when they see Monique, cry out in a welcoming manner, and applaud for her. She’s dressed in a beautiful summer dress, she feels her own warmth like when she was younger, she feels good, she’s content with everything and smiles at these men as she walks; they keep applauding her. None of the men wear masks, they’re healthy, full of strength and joy, and she understands that this is her accomplishment. They’re applauding for her, applauding and crying out greetings. An old satchel hangs from her shoulderit’s usually heavy, it’s got her laptop, her books, her papers, her students’ outlines, but right now it’s rather light, and Monique knows, she feels, what’s in this bag. And she finds it so pleasurable to think about that. The Impfbus waits by the Rathaus. But it has been transformed: rather than the squalid little thing it was this morning, it’s a chic, enormous, streamlined American bus. A small group of men have formed a line next to it. These men are wearing masks and almost all of them are familiar to hershe recognizes them. They greet her.

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