04. Into the body
It’s lunchtime when Debbie comes up with her ”Have you taken vaccinations?”
My brain, lost in translation, suddenly receives the stimulus, my eyes wide open like that yellow emoji on Whatsapp.
There couldn’t be a more innocent – and worse – sentence to trigger my proverbial hypochondria. However, by injecting the fear into my veins before leaving, I believe that she has prevented me from having an even worse time should the thought occur after departure.
Hypochondriacs are very creative people. They imagine apocalyptic scenarios packed into a near dystopian future which make them entirely suitable for writing catastrophic movies screenplays.
Vietnam has started to show its less romantic side, like if the infatuation phase speeded up and our relationship drastically jumped forward to reveal our mutual flaws before time.
The unexpected risk of some (more or less) exotic disease and my fear of it was the breach of my plan.
Yellow warnings were threatening my love made of red sunsets and boats in backlight.
Only three weeks left before departure. Not enough time to activate the majority of vaccines.
The advice coming from Thao and then from multiple virtual voices come up to the same conclusion: vaccinations are not mandatory but highly recommended.
It appears to be a trick, a contradiction in terms.
Not mandatory. However, highly recommended.
I skim the sentence over and over again in the hope of finding a way to close the split between the two contrary sides, to build an invisible bridge that could make such opposite and ridiculous statements have the same consistent meaning to my eyes.
That sentence was releasing itself from any responsibility and giving me the obligation upon any potential consequence.
A remarkable emotional hypochondriac always surrenders herself to her fears, but not before having put them on a microscope slide, analysed clinically and prefigured any possible side effect.
The strong – “highly recommended” – takes over the weak, eventually.
The plan requires a quick remedial action, translated – after a bunch of phone calls – into five vaccines to be injected with a couple of shots booked in two days in a row. And it is just a basic covering.
I reach the first pharmacy after work. A tiny white-green hole embedded in between multicoloured shops lost in the middle of one of the biggest London shopping malls, Selfridges. A tricky signage gives me a hard time to locate it, making my anxiety levels rise. Waiting for the pharmacist, I think how odd is to have a vaccination there, while people around are buying expensive chocolate. In Italy you must go to the clinic – I think – and have the same pale and empathetic face as the others surrounding you.
Sitting on a corner of that small perimeter, whose boundaries from the adjacent chocolate shop are stated by three or four arched stairs and a change in the floor tiles, I watch