Outside, rumble. Inside, rumble. The rumble of the jackhammers. All day, every day. It comes from the outside but shakes everything inside, down to the bones of the boyfie and me.
This isn’t a moment from the last week, but the beginning of a new short story that was just published yesterday!
I’m excited to share that “The streets are alive with the sound of jackhammers” was published yesterday in Pif Magazine’s May edition.
I hope you read it; it’s free to read online. The whole May magazine is worth a read — there are several really lovely poems, cool artwork, and an evocative piece of microfiction. If you’re inclined to read it all together, it’s available in its entirety on Kindle for a dollar.
“Streets are alive” is a story about a girl and her boyfriend stuck inside a basement apartment, dreaming of a better future. Sound familiar? Yes. I wrote it in the height of hot-covid-summer last year. What might be less familiar is that the streets are made of olivine, a green rock that comes from volcanoes and is particularly good at absorbing carbon. Some Elon Musk-types are pushing the wild idea to spread this rock on all our beaches as a solution to global warming. It’s a pipe dream, it won’t work; but it’s kind of a beautiful dream, sifting your fingers through emerald green sand, saving the world while getting a tan.
This kind of cynical hope felt familiar to the dreams we had last summer that we could quarantine the virus away, even though at that point it was clear we were in it for the long haul, that nothing would work except vaccines.
At least the vaccine dream was realized. I got my second vaccine on Monday.
I was nervous. I was lightheaded and shaky with anxiety. Seth asked me, “Why do you like being nervous?” I don’t like being nervous. I heard two people say the side effects of the second dose made them feel sicker than they ever had in their life. Two people said this out of how many hundreds who had their second doses and were fine? But it’s the alarming stories that stick.
Thus accompanied by nerves, Seth and I biked four miles in the heat through the heart of downtown to get to our appointment. We dodged cars parked in bike lanes, rumbled through the pothole canyons of Florida Avenue, trekked across the world’s worst intersection, and made it fifteen minutes early, having survived a ride that was far more dangerous than a vaccine.
The ride helped excise the nerviest nerves. But it also heated me up to a temperature of 99 degrees, leading the nurses to almost not give me the dose. “If you were just a little higher… we’d send you home.” Of course I then wondered: Do I have covid? Will the dose and the covid that I definitely have interact and kill me? Do I actually secretly have silicosis that decided to wait until today to seize my lungs and bring me to fever?
No, I told them, it was just the heat. They sent me to the vaccine room right away, no line. The doctor also read my temperature and interrogated me to make sure I was fine. I didn’t feel fine, I felt anxious, which made me feel all kinds of unfine, but I didn’t tell her that. Then she poked me with a stick and that was that.
The post-shot waiting room is the quietest place in the world. Seth and I, both newly shotted, were alone in it, and I whispered to him to calm myself down as we waited fifteen minutes to make sure our bodies didn’t spontaneously collapse. It vaguely occurred to me that, as I was whispering to Seth, others had entered the room, and that despite my quietness they could hear every word, but that didn’t stop me from being incredibly annoying. Trying and failing to take a selfie with our band-aided arms (it’s hard to get that angle!). Making fun of Seth’s hair (which I cut poorly). Saying whatever I could think of to distract myself from a potential panic attack. Trying to forget that the others existed, yet knowing they were there, yet also thinking, if our roles were reversed, if I was in here alone and there was a weird couple giggling in a corner, that I would be listening to their every word and watching their every movement, I would be grateful for the distraction as I avoided my own thoughts of potential doom. It was a weird in-out-in-out of body experience, and in a way, it was a performance, one that I was trying to pretend didn’t exist.
We survived the void of the post-shot waiting room, and survived the following days with very few side effects. Now, we can dream of green beaches while we sit in white sand, and we can have hope and know that it’s real.
Elliephant of the week: Whiskers, take the spotlight!
Noticement prompt: In the post-vaccine waiting room, do others look nervous? Do you feel nervous? How do the strangers interact? If you’ve already gotten both vaccines, think back and recreate the memory.