the nature of the panic, 4th (and final?)

There was sun today, intermittently. M. takes the boy out and when they return, he says the day is glorious. I have spent the day here, struggling with papers. Progress is slow. 

My friends check in with me, send me notes and text messages. My family calls. We are fine, fine, I tell them. Fine. 

I am not fine, exactly. I am still a bit unsettled from my mid-month travel. Away from home for so long. And then, back to the news of the impending storm. And to the smaller, quieter storms that swirl persistently around the mid-point of this life we are leading. 

How best to spend these hours, these days? 

These are difficult days: how one frustration follows fast on another. And the questions persist. And the doubt. Where is this all leading? What will all this mean, in the end? 

Perhaps I have been too preoccupied with zombies. 

After a grueling obsession with the television show LOST, to which I sacrificed more hours than I care to admit, I vowed not to be seduced by another television series. I will admit to killing an hour or two watching Chopped or Iron Chef America, but for the most part, I have resisted Breaking Bad and Dexter and Game of Thrones, and a handful of other series about which my friends can wax poetic with little prompting.

What broke me? The Walking Dead. 

It is not about the show itself, primarily, although there is a compelling core storyline involving deception and betrayal and an impossible love (not to worry, there will be no spoilers here) and as would be expected, there is gore. Full-on, gasp-worthy, graphic depictions of what zombies do best. 

But the true appeal of it is that we can watch it with my daughter. After my son is in bed, the three of us can watch a few episodes at a time with the lights out, under blankets. With snacks. 

She’s sixteen now, my daughter, and in a few months, she’ll start driving lessons. We are making lists of colleges to visit. She is edging toward her own life, one in which - if we have done our jobs well - we will play only a peripheral, supporting role. And as fiercely as I believe that we are only to be a launching pad for her own journey, I am filled with anticipatory nostalgia for her childhood, for the child she was. And perhaps, if I am honest with myself, for my own childhood, for the child I was. Or for the child I wanted to be. 

But the zombies. 

There is no rest for the undead. Not one thing or another, they belong nowhere and are forced to wander in a loveless horde with loyalties to no one. They act only to survive. There is no meaning, only action. And death (the second one, that is) when it comes, seems merciful. 

There are no deep connections, no ill-fated romances. No anger, no passions. No love or attempts to love. Only mindless stumbling without rest.  

My daughter turned sixteen over the summer, but when she realized that many of her friends would be away when she wanted to have her party, we agreed to postpone in to just this past weekend, and take advantage of the time of year to have a zombie-themed extravaganza. For the last two weeks, we have been amassing bones and body parts as decorations. A full-sized skeleton we’ve named “Bartholomew.” Bottles of blood. Yellow crime-scene tape. She’s become quite adept with liquid latex and made herself up to look like a more gruesome version of herself than I was prepared to see. 

But they had fun, the teenaged undead. They shouted and danced and stomped around on the third floor of our house. They sang along to “Don’t Stop Believin” and “You Give Love a Bad Name.” They danced Gangnam style. 

All of which is to say, they did us proud. 

I have a hard time letting things - people, ideas, expectations, wishes - go. This is not an uncommon problem, I know. My particular brand of attachment manifests in an unwillingness to accept certain realities, certain truths. This can be a good impulse - it makes me ambitious, supports my idealism. But it can also be crushing. One cannot, after all, go back and change the past as fiercely and as sincerely as one might wish to. 

One cannot bring the dead back to life. One cannot un-choose certain choices.

As I have been sitting here, it has started raining again. The sky has grown dark and the house seems cold. It is quiet, except for M. and our son playing another round of “Hide the severed hand.” 

And now, the rain falling, falling - on the sidewalk, on the piles of fallen leaves, on the gray ribbon of highway that in this fading light, blurs into the sky.