You never forget your first prick. I certainly didn’t. Being an 11-year-old Londoner at the time, needles were for seamstresses and drug addicts. They were not for sticking into the flesh of hormonal boys.
But I needed a tetanus shot after flying through the back of a van and smashing my forehead against a carjack.
This was the 1980s, a time when basic car safety, seat belts and living children were considered bonuses among parents.
If at least one kid hadn’t broken a bone, lost a limb or gone through the occasional car windscreen, then it meant the family was either very lucky or too poor to own a car.
Following our annual car accident, I was rushed to the local hospital to deal with the parted red sea in the middle of my forehead. The bloody geyser was so impressive that other patients wanted to take photos.
Then a nurse appeared and my body wobbled for very different reasons. First, she was brandishing a needle that was the size of a small aircraft. And second, she held the needle upright, in front of a tight-fitting uniform that scarcely concealed her chest.
My hormonal, agitated state wasn’t entirely sure if I was on a hospital ward or the set of a porn movie.
When she pulled down my underwear, I was edging towards the porn thing when I suddenly felt a pneumatic drill being shoved through my arse cheek.
I’ve loathed all injections ever since.
But as I write this, I’m thinking about the lovely nurse and dealing with a sore left arm (the two are connected, but not in the way you might think.)
My first Covid-19 vaccine has just been administered. By the time you read this, my second shot should be in the bag and I’ll be entirely vaccinated against the worst global pandemic since the Spanish Flu (or I’ve had an adverse reaction to the second needle and died, in which case, a column filled with puerile sex puns is as good an obituary as any.)
But it’s a new beginning. Even the mood within the Hougang Community Club conveyed a feeling of cheeriness. Indeed, the whole process was a strange production line of contrasting emotions.
Before the injection, sweaty souls handed over ICs and were briefed on all the possible side effects (all terrifying. After my nurse listed every possible outcome, I was convinced that I was catching green parrot’s disease at the very least.)
After the injection, there was a discernible lift in spirits, a fascinating ‘before’ and ‘after’ feel usually seen in those reality TV shows involving makeovers. All that was missing was a Pan-Asian, American-accented artiste popping up and saying, “when you step out from the curtain, Mr Humphreys, you’ll be a new man with a sore arm and a renewed sense of purpose. Join the freshly vaccinated outside for a lusty rendition of ‘Walking on Sunshine’.”
During that 30-minute, post-needle observation period, there was an unmistakable joie de vivre among the freshly jabbed. In a frenzied bout of texting, I informed my mother that I was halfway to visiting her for the first time in three years, read up on travel bubbles, considered possible flights, joined Greenpeace and checked my eligibility as a political candidate for Sengkang at the next general election.
I might have got a tad carried away with my plans and aspirations. But that’s where we are right now, as individuals, as families and as a culture and society. We spent a year managing the despair. It’s the hope that’s almost unbearable, the tantalising, promising glimpses of hope that are being dangled before us like carrots torturing weary donkeys.
Be honest here. Singapore has never felt smaller. We’ve done every state-designed park connector, walked the nature reserves and pretended that a staycation is a real holiday. It’s not.
A night in a staycation hotel is a luxurious version of a night spent in a camp bunk on Pulau Tekong. It’s an important national service, sure, but you’d still rather be having sex in an exotic, foreign location.
And now, finally, the end is in sight. There are caveats, obviously. This is Singapore. There are caveats for using the new kiddie slides at East Coast Park. So of course there are caveats for a global pandemic.
The tragic events in India seemed to serve as both harsh admonition and stark warning. This could happen to us, if complacency takes hold. So maybe hold one or two of those first world problems in check.
Yes, the BTO flats are delayed and the domestic helper supply has stalled. Both will resume as soon as the vulnerable folks in South Asia stop dying. So, you know, keep the perspective.
By and large, Singapore is still the place to be. Bloomberg said as much, moving Singapore to the top of the Bloomberg Covid Resilience Rankings. Low case numbers, high vaccinations and controlled borders have us living in gilded cages, but the door is ajar.
Life is slowly returning to normal, apart from the ubiquitous facemasks. There are sadomasochistic perverts in chains and black leather that do not reach for masks as eagerly as we do in Singapore.
But that’s a minor quibble. The summer months promise optimism, a genuinely new beginning. A year ago, the island was adjusting to life in lockdown. Today, the island's adult population is almost vaccinated.
Singapore is following in the footsteps of history. A society will only improve its fortunes by dealing with one prick at a time.
Illustration by Penn Ey Chee