She walked past me, tiny band-aid on her upper arm. She had a serious expression on her face, her eyes looked straight ahead, mask on her chin, her lips moved silently. She crossed herself with her right hand and took a seat at the end of the empty row of plastic chairs. At the other end, a few 40-something men scrolled through newsfeeds, eyes down. Others came out and took their socially-distant seats. On the wall next to my chair, a list of normal reactions – Don’t be alarmed if you feel: pain around the injection site, headache, fatigue, etc…
The first time I stepped foot in this complex, it was an airport. Years of joyful arrivals and tearful departures. Later, I worked here during the 2004 Olympics when the complex hosted many sporting events. I celebrated on the field with the gold-medal winners, the Cuban baseball team. Later still, in this very building, a sports hall-turned-dusty warehouse, I was a volunteer. I unloaded and sorted towers of boxes filled with donated goods, food and clothing for refugees.
Now I looked up at the vastness of the space - ultra-clean, newly-designed, brightly-lit. I glanced at the people around me. We had just marched through this modern conveyor belt like worker ants, everything orderly. Stand here, show your ID at the counter, stamp your paper there. Enter around the corner. Done. And now we sat and waited.
I stared at the masked people across from me, forcing them to look back. I said, excuse me, it was Pfizer that we got, right? I was so excited, I forgot to ask the nurse… I chuckled nervously.
Yes, it was Pfizer, I asked when I went in, said a blond woman, looking up from her phone. Suddenly we were all laughing, the spell of seriousness broken. We looked at one another with a sense of communal relief… smiling, giggling, exhaling everything we’d been holding in for the past year.