Survival books are fascinating and I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s a way of facing my worst fears – there are so many – and conquering them. I read Bird Box, by Josh Malerman, recently, fluctuating between throwing it across the room and reading it in one sitting. It’s a small, creepy little book, about a very young single mom raising two babies amid a frightening global alien crisis. Strange creatures have taken over earth’s population, but only if people see them. Obviously it takes a while to learn this but when people do it allows for endless survival scenarios: blindfolded humans living in communes, symbiotic relationships having been established as the only way to outlast whatever is in the sky; surviving by training yourself to do everything by sound, touch and – ultimately – trust. It is also a quiet soliloquy on motherhood and what it means to be a “good” mother in horrific circumstances. Much like The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, a book I loved and hated, it has similar and disturbing scenarios; not for the faint of heart or new moms, so don’t shove it into the baby shower gift with the giraffe onesie. I would say the genre is horror – and I almost never dip into that pool – but I did like the authenticity of the book’s tiny details. For instance, how would you teach babies not to open their eyes (because, in this book, it’s an absolute necessity) without being a monster?
After I had children I became a little crazy. All right, I became a little crazier. I went into each complicated situation (deemed “complicated”: plane trips, Mr, Halfstory’s long business trips, any drive over 2 hours, nights spent with Grammy, far away field trips when I wasn’t the driver, panicky feeling after watching the news, and, sadly, that terrifying 25 minutes after vaccinations). I calmed down eventually but all of that left me with a keen and mostly unhealthy attitude toward everyday life. “How will I get out of this windowless office building with all of my toddlers if there is sudden global anarchy?” “That man looks sketchy. Can the children and I outrun him if he whips out a knife?” Actually, that last one happened to me when I was pregnant with the girls. It was pre-everyone-having-a-cell-phone, The Son was in a stroller, and I was walking both dogs. I was also larger than a house party, and therefore had no wheels. Fortunately I was on a busy street, drivers saw him and honked until they scared him away, and my dogs were finally a deterrent. For several long minutes, however, I pictured my giant body wrestling that rusty knife out of his hands.
Anyway, if you liked The Road, or liked Room, by Emma Donoghue, try the weird bird book.
The Son was ugly sick this weekend, his fever rocketing up just shy of 104 degrees; I saw no less than 3 doctors in one day, one of them in the ER, where they got his fever down and managed to take verbal swipes at those “other brilliant doctors” who didn’t think to give him certain drugs. I even got yelled at by a doctor I’d never met when I refused his instructions to to to the ER (he couldn’t fit me in his schedule that day); my last experience in the ER consisted of three professionals glancing at me and then recommending Pepcid. Of course, I had to eat my hat on that one; The Son was so delirious and paranoid about his bodily “vibrations” I had to shove him in the car and speed up to the ER anyway. I do trip on the catty stuff amongst medical professionals, similar to when you get a new dentist and they peer inside your mouth, aghast at the foreign scaffolding some other poor grunt has constructed Notesto dentists everywhere: invest in aromatherapy – your patients will love you – and please someone invent the silent drill. Hundreds of years of dentistry and this has not yet been addressed? You’re not pulling teeth on a pirate ship, you know?
All that aside, we did have several nice moments. In the City, at the 450 Sutter medical building, there is great pharmacy on the 7th floor. The doors open right into the hallway, and are flanked by two old wooden benches, where, it appears, generations have sat down with their tiny cups of water and taken their medicine. The pharmacists are young (at least when we were there) and are playing hip-hop but on the counter are plates of carefully cut homemade brownies, just in case you need to take your awful meds with food. I’m not one to embrace food on open counters but we were in dire straits. They even non-dusty, brown apothecary jars lined up on the back counter, and a curious assortment of food, which , based on my experience growing with my Nana, is probably very handy for their clientele.
Later at home, after cleaning up the house bomb that explodes when an 18-year-old boy is sick, we managed to tolerate the Giants implosion, mostly because we were all gnawing on popsicles. The Son, in rare I-feel-better euphoria, announced he was going to “handle the laundry apolocalypse” in his room. Survival is good luck indeed.