Well, I got it. After a year of living with a fear so pervasive it literally made it difficult to breathe, I got it. I had the first taste of relief, a respite from the terror that had gripped me – and the world around me – since March 17th, 2020. And it was all so … easy.

I was surprised at the smoothness of it. The hardest part was making the appointment, through the byzantine labyrinth of California’s appointments websites. Countless times logging on just to find all the appointments taken within moments of being opened up had me wondering what it would take, how long it would take, and how much longer I would be shackled with the fear. Even getting the appointment was no relief; I’d already had one appointment cancelled, the day before it was due, due to a miscommunication. So who was to say I would get all the way through?

On the day, though, it was seamless. I arrived at the Moscone Center, showed my appointment confirmation and walked through doors into a large, airy, and largely empty atrium. I checked in at a small kiosk, and made my way to a lower level which was also surprisingly sparsely populated. Volunteers with paddles directed those few of us there towards a large hall divided by partitions and curtains into a hive of mini-clinics separated by a large field of folding chairs. There was barely a line and the nurses were efficiently guiding people through the process of getting their vaccinations and releasing them into the waiting area for 15 minutes of mandatory observation.

I was quickly ushered into a small cubicle with a traveling nurse from Texas who had been stuck in LA during the worst of Southern California’s case spike. I was barely listening to her as my emotions finally rose above the pool of adrenaline in my system. I felt my tears burn behind my eyes, and held them back, not wanting to seem overly dramatic. But I felt it, I wanted to cry with relief at this glimpse of real hope, at this first real breath in a year.