Also My Friend Selma by Claire Hinchcliffe

Tuesdays I would be at work, eating biscuits with John or having a laugh with Julie.
This Tuesday I’m in the car outside the hospital, so scared my hands are shaking.
I don’t want to be here. I want it to be four months ago, back in the office.
I navigate the panic attack by pretending I’m at the front of a classroom full of expectant children.
When I can breathe, I get out and put on my face mask. When I arrive at the research building, I re-check my passport and consent forms.
I use the hand sanitizer. A young woman waits. She’s nervous too. I don’t want her to be nervous. I want her to take control and tell me it’s perfectly safe. She hands me a pen and tells me to keep hold of it. I’m good at putting people at their ease, but today I’m empty of all skills except one foot and then the other.
Inside the waiting room, four other volunteers sit. It’s the most people I’ve seen in one room since lockdown began. I use the hand sanitizer.
I sign a lot of forms and talk with a doctor. It’s a different one to last week. She reiterates the risks and potential side effects of trialling a vaccine. She takes a blood sample. We both use the hand sanitizer.
By the time I enter the vaccination room, I’m terrified again. I use the hand sanitizer. The nurse shoves something up my nostril. Too-bright lighting, heat and the strangeness make me dizzy. ‘Are you Ok?’ the nurse asks. I want to tell her that I’m a fat, middle aged woman. I shouldn’t be in this hospital; I should be at work eating biscuits. I don’t know what has brought me from there to here. I am not OK.
One word and then the next. We chat about the weather. She gets my arm ready. I don’t want to do it. There’s not enough air.
But, my son and his cancelled exams.
My parents so far away; Mum scrabbling about for the last potato.
One lost thing and then another.
‘Can I say the names?’ I don’t explain it very well, yet the nurse understands instantly.
‘Please do.’
As the needle goes into my upper arm, I’m ready. ‘Barry and Glen.’
The nurse nods. ‘Also, my friend, Selma.’
When I get home, I open a new pack of biscuits and joke with my son that I’m now a hybrid chimpanzee.
@ClaireHinchlif4Claire lives in the north of the Uk. She has written two novels, many short stories and some dodgy poetry.

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