A Prisoner of Hope Dementia in the Age of Covid
The scenarios that run rampant in my mind:
#1 — I get a message. Success. You are to report at a specified location on Sunday for your vaccine. I race there that day. It’s icy conditions. I swerve but deal with it. I just avoid an accident. Trying to make up for lost time, I get a speeding ticket. But I make it to the vaccine site only to see the door closing. I scream. A crack opens. The door moves. Someone heard my cry. A human being smiles and beckons me on. I am relieved. But no!!!!!! I’ve forgotten my mask. “Sorry, try again,” she says. I go back to the traffic accident and ask if I can be part of it.
#2 — I get the message. Success. They will notify me as soon as possible. There is a knock on the door. Hmm, I was expecting a text message. It’s ICE. I’m being deported to Mexico “back where you came from” despite my protests that I was born in New York City. Arriving in Mexico, I’m told there are vaccines and where to go. But, lo siento, my Spanish is no bueno. I go to the wrong location, where they nonetheless give me a shot. I’m thrilled. I work on my Spanish while awaiting repatriation. But it turns out it wasn’t a vaccine and I’m now a heroin addict, barely getting by in Guadalajara. My family promises to visit once Americans are allowed into Mexico.
#3 — I get a message. Success. I wait for a text message or email telling me the location and date for my shot. The days pass. Friends who’ve gotten their first and second shots pass by my house and ask how things are going. I yell, “Still waiting.” They nod sympathetically and increase their pace. People are now wearing stickers, like the “I voted” sticker, saying, “I’m safe, what about you?!” I consider getting a sticker from a site called Imazon that claims their stickers are legal (free speech) and will “allow you to socialize and smile more”. But can I sink that low? I write a letter to the NY Times’ Ethicist sharing my dilemma. I get a reply saying my question’s answer is so obvious it isn’t even worth responding to. At least they wrote back to me. I’m becoming forgotten. I try to get relief by calling someone in my state’s health services office only to hear an automated recording stating that they only take calls from people with stickers.
#4 — I get a message. Failure. No vaccine for you! But there is another option: a new colony is being set up for people like me. I can go to Staten Island. People are finally leaving there because it was semi-ridiculous to live there in the first place. On Staten Island I will be with others who share my condition: Covid-free but unable to guarantee it. We can live there without masks, socialize freely, have very close contact (wink, wink) and enjoy a normal life. Except, it’s still Staten Island. Eventually, we stop getting internet and phone service. That actually makes life more enjoyable and satisfying. We start thinking maybe life is better here. Sadly, soon word of this nirvana gets out. “Life is better on Staten Island” goes viral (someone sends us a letter about this — letters are received via mail drop from planes going elsewhere — the mail bags often hit house roofs with a thud). It’s rumored that travel and real estate agents beyond our peaceful shores are jacking up prices for what sounds like an invasion of our little paradise. Is this all true? One brave soul sneaks into the rest of the world and gets word back that we will be sent to either the middle of the Sahara Desert or Antarctica and that fumigation teams are preparing to start their work here as soon as we leave. My fellow non-vaxed Staten Islanders and I are distraught. How do you pack when the climate options are so different?! There is a run on luggage at “Great Mall of What’s Left”. It seems the nightmare will never end. Then a miracle: all of us get letters saying our vaccine appointments will be finalized shortly. There are initial sighs of relief. But the sweet taste quickly turns sour when we begin to suspect that this might be a ruse. How could we all get appointments on the same date and time? Who would administer these shots? And will our medical plan still cover them (we’ve not paid into Medicare or medical plans since we arrived)? It seems suspicious given the sudden vaccinated world’s interest in Staten Island. An anti-vax movement starts among us. There are town hall meetings with anger turning to despair turning to autumn. Is this America? We sit and wait. All options seem ominous. I grow despondent because I stupidly got only black suitcases which I’ll never be able to identify at the arrival baggage pick-up area.
Wait! Stop the scenarios! I just got a message. I’m going to get a vaccine shot after all. Yeah!! It was all just a bad dream. Wait — which was all a bad dream? Am I dreaming this? Dreaming which part? Where am I? Who are you? What’s happening to me? Slowly, the Mexico scenario is sounding more and more attractive.