VAX Sketch

Elliott got drunk with these doctors a few weeks ago and convinced them to host a cookout at the park near where they both live on Roosevelt Island. Residual hurricane rain forced us inside to cook at Tien, the younger doc's apartment. I think he has a microbiology PhD.

And because Tien planned on hosting 20 people in the park, he bought pounds of meat from Costco he had to freeze. What he kept out, we cooked: ribs, jerk wings, and a striploin butchered from an American cow of Japanese pedigree.

We drank red wine and smoked Elliott's tree vape. Everyone shared the vape. I was the only one vaccinated. Elliott binges too much TrumpTok to vax. And Tien, as a microbiologist or whatever, doesn't trust it either. I asked him why not and he said, “Because I'm a scientist.” And Elliott pointed in my face and said, “See! He's a scientist.”

So I heard him out, even though I’m brainwashed because I got the vax. I felt like vax discourse with an actual doctor would better serve me IRL.

And Tien said, because it’s an mRNA vaccine, the COVID protein spikes jutting from the cells you inject in your arm will proliferate and your body will start attacking these new cells.

But, he said, every cell that comes in contact with the mRNA COVID vax cells will itself express the same COVID protein spike as the vax cells. That you're essentially rewiring your cellular biology and your immune system will attack itself. So he doesn’t trust the vaccine.

But he said I seemed healthy enough to survive the two jabs. Then he scolded me, “Just no boosters.” And I promised him I was done with COVID vaxes. I just needed it to travel some last summer and also to be able to teach on campus this fall.

And Tien said that his work required that he get it so he forged the vax card his lab asked for. But also that his friend, Dr. Salanga, who works at Tien's same lab and who would pull up shortly, didn’t know Tien wasn’t vaxxed.

So Tien told me that I shouldn’t say anything about him not being vaxxed in front of Dr. Salanga, lest that truth rift their friendship. Tien’s vaccination status. So I promised I wouldn’t out him and incite undue turmoil because I'm not that guy.

And when Dr. Salanga pulled up, he complained about his late summer malaise at work, a job he left his family in Australia to take. He said that the distancing measures at his lab meant he sees only a third of his coworkers who are also scheduled on the days the hospital has him work there. He mourned the office camaraderie. He pronounced all five syllables.

And then, because Tien was right there and we had a secret I wasn’t too invested in preserving, I asked Dr. Salanga if he got vaxxed and he said that his lab required him to, and ranted statistics about how effective the vaccine has been reducing hospitalizations, and other metrics.

Then Tien overly praised the vax in what I could tell was a dead-pan pantomime of Dr. Salanga’s fealty to the power of the vax and the medical progress it represented.

And even though I knew, I asked Tien if he got it and he said, “Of course.” That his work made him.

Then Dr. Salanga asked which one he got and Tien said the single jab J&J. And Salanga said that they gave him one of the two-jab shots.

And Tien said about the J&J vaccine, “That’s the one they said they were giving me and I said I’ll take it.” He raised his palms to surrender cooperation to the hypothetical nurse phlebotomist who would’ve dosed him if he believed in the vax.

When Dr. Salanga said, “Good man,” I knew we'd gotten through the act with their camaraderie preserved.

Al Jacobs teaches college in New York City.

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