Saturday, March 21, 2009

March 21, 2009

This month has been bad. I am -- I am not exactly sure where to go from here.
Generally speaking, John stays downstairs from three days before until two or three days after. We consider this to be a conservative time frame -- it gives us plenty of time to get everything secure while John can still be counted on to be rational and helpful, even pointing out things that I may have forgotten to double check, and plenty of time afterwards to make sure that John is back, and that the ... the whatever it is that takes John's place, the NotJohn, I sometimes think of it ... is really and truly gone back to whatever subconscious swamp it disappears to. You would think that the shift would be obvious, but often it is not. We have a number of emergency plans and code words and traps and bells and whistles and pulleys set up to cushion us if things go awry, most of them involving keeping the kids well away and all of them not worth discussing because they are either obvious or they would horrify you. Or both.
Sometimes it is not enough.
On March 4, a full week before the full, both kids were spending the day at a friend's house. John and I were taking advantage of the offspring-not-underfoot time to do a little spring cleaning. We were delighted to have organized a day with each other and with no distractions, and now every time I replay March 4 in my mind, which I do every night while John breathes beside me, there is a panicked beat under my memory that yammers what if the kids had been there what if they had seen what if John had turned and they had gotten in the way and it was just dumb luck that they weren't there oh my God --
John made dinner -- soup and sandwiches, simple but awesome. When we were both almost finished and down to picking at crumbs, John smiled at me across the table and took my hand. "You look great", he said.
I smiled back. I wasn't really in the mood, but the kids were gone and we were alone, so I was ready to be persuaded. I happened to glance down at John's hand, resting on the wooden Ikea table and intertwined with my own, and I saw one hair, a red hair, growing out of the index finger. Before I could even tense, another hair grew up beside it. I looked up and John was still smiling, but there were suddenly too many teeth in his smile. Too many too shiny so sharp and what if the kids had been there --?
"You look good enough to eat", John said. Some detached part of me had time to think really? That's what you're going with? What a cheesy line. It's like something out of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, for God's sake! I extracted my hand and stood up slowly. John looked up, his polite concern made feral and awful by the stubble he had suddenly sprouted and the visible pulse in his neck. "What's wrong, Meg?" he asked. I opened my mouth to say something, but before I had even organized my voice into non-trembliness, John added, "Are you still hungry? I'm still really hungry" and lunged across the table at me.
I ran. He pursued. It's the classic boy meets girl story. You know, Wes Craven style. I don't remember, I really purposefully put a great deal of time and energy into not remembering, the details of the few minutes that followed. Obviously, I somehow got the best of John, or the NotJohn that takes my husband away, because here I am, wringing my hands but still in possession of my hands and the will to wring them. I have a broken toe, which is the stupidest and most anti-climactic of all possible injuries, but I must have tripped on something during the course of the whole adventure. I am not sure which trap or net or snare I used to immobilize NotJohn, but I do have a nightmarishly clear vision of myself knocking the thing that still looked heartbreakingly husbandly unconscious with a heavy wooden vase that we received as a wedding present.
On the 13th, eight unedurable days later, John came back to some semblance of himself and began asking for me to go downstairs. He was somewhat peeved by the fact that I would not let him come up until the following Monday. The trouble is, he says things while he is compromised, he calls for me, he cries, he recites much-loved poems, and it is all an act a trap the NotJohn attempts to set for me using my husband's knowledge of me and the only reason it doesn't quite play is that his voice is just a shade too dark and too hoarse and there is some sense of rabid humor in it. John had no memory of any of it, although if I were him and I did remember, I might claim not to, too, so who knows.
It's happening earlier. And it's getting worse. And I am haunted, as always but so much more sharply now, by how seamlessly a seductive and tender moment with my husband bled into those teeth chattering with desire for my blood. And what if the kids had been there it was so early and so unexpected and I might not have been fast enough for all three of us oh God --

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

March 11, 2009

It happened early this month, earlier than ever before. He's been down there for over a week, and during the day he is calling and he sounds just like himself but he isn't he isn't himself and if I listen if I go to the door and he sees me he smiles and oh my God there are so many teeth in his smile and he says awful things --
I can hear him right now he is down there and something is rattling and is it the stairs is he on the stairs did he get loose --? It isn't the stairs please God he isn't coming up the stairs please God please God just let us get to tomorrow tomorrow will be better please please please ---

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

February 25, 2009

I just got back from another FFW meeting. John still doesn't like them, I still see his point, I still attend from time to time. More and more often, if I am honest.
Today, we talked about babies.
It often, in fact it almost always, feels like we have been living in this brave new world forever and ever and ever, but in actuality it hasn't really been all that long. The first compromised person was diagnosed in June of 2005 (if you can call it that. I mean, that sounds so reasonable and clinical, and in reality, obviously, there was a long stretch of no doctor knowing what the hell was happening, and then an even longer stretch where every doctor in Bala Plata did elaborate dances around each other because no one wanted to be the first one to say what had become obvious but still seemed absurd, and then an even yet longer stretch where the doctors were tentatively offering their opinion that it seemed very much like --, and then a relatively short but extremely fraught stretch where we were all looking around for the Candid Camera because ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS SHIT?, which pretty much brings us to the present, but for the sake of brevity, let's say "diagnosed" and pretend like we're talking about something normal). Within a week, twelve cases had been reported, all of them within City limits, none of them bearing any direct relationship to any other. As far as we know, as far as we can tell, our Epidemic (I like to say 'epidemic'. I feel all living-in-an-action-movie when I say it) remains entirely local. No one has, as of yet, been able to figure out the exact means by which it spreads. The old get-bitten-and-then-whoops-you're-the-biter thing does not seem to be true, or not 100% true. Sometimes victims of bites become compromised, sometimes they simply die, sometimes they slap some Neosporin and a bandage on and a week later they're fine. Sometimes bodily fluids seem to be a factor, but most often not. There is no genetic or physical or lifestyle-related characteristic that seems to make one type of person more susceptible than another. This is why most of us have stayed. After long and elaborate City Council meetings and Church Rallies and Soul Searching, most of us agreed that to go elsewhere, when we have no idea how or why this is happening to us and therefore how or why we might avoid spreading it to wherever we might flee to, would be unconscionable. So we stay, and more and more, as the months flow into years, we become a highly tightly intensely isolated ecosystem. Our doctors, our lawyers and judges, our general contractors who build our customized basement dens, are increasingly specialized in injuries, in laws and regulations, in silver-based chain-mounts and reinforced garage doors. How can we possibly reach outside, even to the next city over, when they could not possibly help even if they could be made to believe?
What does all of this have to do with babies? There have been very few babies born who were conceived after the beginning of the Epidemic. (Action Movie! Ah, I am easily amused.) Our own youngest, Pearl, was conceived (as best as I can figure) shortly after the first diagnosed case, and born about six months after her father was compromised. (She was not, thank God, born on or near the full moon.) Of the babies (maybe two dozen?) born in the last year or two to compromised individuals, five have been compromised from birth. One died of unknown causes. The rest are, so far at least, fine.
It is generally agreed, and it was stressed again in much of today's FFW meeting, that curbing population growth is prudent at this time, in this place, for pretty much everyone, for pretty obvious reasons. John and I have never, since his first (and, in many ways, scariest) cycle, discussed birth control or additions to our family or anything reproductive at all, but we both know that we are both throwing every available contraceptive at our sex life any time there is any kind of sex life to throw things at. Because to do otherwise would be dangerously, irresponsibly stupid.
And yet.
I always imagined myself with three. When we got pregnant with Pearl, I never braced myself for her being my last baby, my last chance to ripen like a melon and feel in amazing wonder another person kick and turn and dance within me, my last time to touch the benign and everyday magic that babies are.
I want another one.
I am 31 years old, a long way from too old to have a baby, but old enough to hear the clock ticking. There is no way of knowing how long all of this will go on, how long it will take for us to figure out what is causing it, what might stop it, or whether it can be stopped at all. My chances to complete my family in the way that I always imagined it being completed are waning with every cycle. Do I really want to bring another helpless person into this, another person whose safety I will lie awake nights wondering if I am protecting enough, another person that I have to try to take with me on the elaborate tip-toe dance around each and every month in the life we now lead? Even setting aside the question of whether it is safe or fair to even try to create a life that might begin itself already contaminated? Of course not. No mother that loves her children, even the not-yet-conceived children that exist only in her imagination, no mother could willingly bring those children into this place under these circumstances. But that is my brain talking, ticking away with it's implacable logical lists of reasons not to, not to, not to. My body, however, my heart, has its own agenda, John is not the only one with a basic animal inside that howls at the moon, and there is an empty place in our house in our heart in our family that howls to create life because life is hope and if we can't hope if we can't create hope for ourselves then we aren't alive we aren't really in touch with life at all and survival without hope, without vitality, is nothing but ashes barely warm.
I want another baby. I want to be in a place where we could welcome another baby without dread. I am without the means to make anything different enough to make that happen. But I am not without hope. Life solves itself, and all prayers are answered. One way or another.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February 24, 2009

I woke up this morning and looked over at John, whose eyes were open in that not-really-awake-yet way.
"I just had a weird thought", he said.
"Yep", I answered without a great deal of surprise or interest. John often has weird thoughts just before he falls asleep or just after waking up. He tends to think that they are kind of fascinating, but he is usually mistaken. He once spent half an hour pontificating about decorative shrubbery and the people whose job it is to prune it. It's like that guy you knew in college who always thought that he tapped into some sort of creative vein of genius when he was high, but really he was just mumbling nonsense to himself while you rolled your eyes. But anyway.
"Yeah", said John dreamily. "When I get old -- you know, assuming I do --"
"Why wouldn't you?"
"Come on, Meg. But anyway, I was thinking that if my teeth fall out, I mean, eventually there'll totally be a market for 'Dentures For The Compromised!' Fangtures!"
"You don't get fangs, exactly", I said. John doesn't retain a tremendous amount of memory during the worst of the cycle. I retain it. As such, I am not as amused by his flight of whimsy here as he seems to be. "Also, frankly, one sharp body part down would be kind of a nice advantage for the home team", I added.
"Yeah, yeah. Of course. I would go out and buy the dentures, and then you would take them away, and I would be down there during a cycle grumbling about 'Woman, find me my fangs", and you would have secretly hidden them in the wolfsbane bush, and it would be like a sitcom! Like Lucy and Desi, except with a little smattering of Buffy The Vampire Slayer thrown in!"
To which I wisely said nothing. A person who combines I Love Lucy and Buffy The Vampire Slayer first thing on a Tuesday morning is not a person with whom reasonable discourse can take place.

Monday, February 23, 2009

February 23, 2009

This came in the mail today:

January 31, 2008

Johnathon M. _______
123 Notmyrealaddress Lane
Bala Plata, Ca. 92317

RE: New Application

Dear Mr. ______:

Thank you for your recent application requesting health coverage under our Direct Spectrum PPO plan 2800. We appreciate the opportunity to do business with you. Unfortunately, we were unable to finish processing your application, and we require further information from you in order to complete our evaluation. Please clarify the following points via mail, email, or visit our website,, and send or fax any relevant paperwork. Your prompt attention to this matter will help us facilitate faster completion of our evaluation of your application. We are sorry for any inconvenience this causes you, and we encourage you not to cancel any existing coverage until your application with us is completed and approved.
Thank You,
NotItsRealName Health Insurance Co.

The following items on your application are incomplete or unclear:

* Item 12b, page 4: You checked [yes] next to the question, "Do you or does any dependent for whom you are requesting coverage suffer from a pre-existing condition that has required medical care in the last 5 years?", and specified "Lycanthropy". Our database has limited information on the nature and treatment of the listed condition. Please procure relevant medical records and send or fax them along with your completed application.

* Item 32a, page 12: You checked [yes] next to the question, "Have you or a dependent for whom you are requesting coverage required emergency services or hospitalization in the last 12 months?" but neglected to fill out the line specifying the incident(s) or condition(s) that required services. Your medical records are similarly incomplete or unavailable. Please fill out the form completely, and send or fax medical records with any relevant doctor's notes or memos included, along with your completed application.

* Item 42a, page 15: You checked [?] next to, "Do you or does any dependent for whom you are requesting coverage suffer from a disorder or disorders of the nervous system, i.e. epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, or other?", Please clarify, and send or fax any relevant documents along with your completed application.

* Item 42b, page 15: You checked [?] next to, "Do you or does any dependent for whom you are requesting coverage suffer from a disorder or disorders of the circulatory system, i.e. angina, high blood pressure, or other?" Please clarify, and send or fax any relevant documents along with your completed application.

* Item 42c, page 15: You checked [?] next to, "Do you or does any dependent for whom you are requesting coverage suffer from a disorder or disorders of the immune system, i.e. HIV or AIDS, Lupus, or other?" Please clarify, and send or fax any relevant documents along with your completed application.

NotItsRealName Health Insurance Co.
(800) 543-8692 Customer Service 8-5 M-S
(800) 554-3433 Fax

It would be funny -- no, it would be hilarious -- if we didn't need the fucking health insurance so badly. I mean, can you imagine the look on the face of whatever poor sucker in the Processing Department over at old NotItsRealName Health got stuck with writing that letter? Ha.

(*I realize that, Bala Plata being a relatively small town, and there not being all that many couples named John and Meg in it, our anonymity has already been more or less compromised. For formality's sake, however, I obviously did not put our real address, phone #, or medical ID #, and if for some weird reason the actual health insurance company stumbles upon my blog, they could theoretically get testy about my discussion of their correspondence with us and try to sue me out of all my vast fortune. It's annoying and probably unnecessary, but I am slightly paranoid.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

February 22, 2009

And now we seem to have developed a flea infestation. Awesome. John will be so pleased.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

February 21, 2009

I have never liked February. It's awkward as hell, what with the short month that always screws up paydays and yes, I know that it all balances out somewhere further down the line in August or somewhere, but still. And then you have the fact that every four years, there is an extra day, so you have to keep track of that and I know it doesn't seem like a big deal, but it bugs. Plus it is still grey and rainy, and there are no major holidays to anticipate, and it is always the month when how much you spent on Christmas finally catches up with you, and then everyone catches a cold and we don't sleep and then John and I start giving each other those pointed looks over the tops of the kids' heads that mean I think we both know whose turn it is to change the poopy diapers tonight, Bucko. So, to sum up, I am not predisposed to be at my most cheerful at any point this month. If I were going to be cheerful, though, which I'm not so don't get excited, I would have to pick today as the day to do it. I had to run errands downtown with both kids in tow, and I love being downtown this time of month. It was sunny and lovely and everyone was out shopping or walking or doing whatever, and everyone was smiling and saying hello and it was all so nice and normal. Next week I will start noticing gaps in this normalcy -- several stores closed in the middle of business hours, parking weirdly available even at busy times of day. The week after that, bigger and broader gaps, and the people who are out are edgy and testy about their personal space, and the week after that -- well, we'll all be staying home, won't we? But, as John, who has been dabbling in Buddhism, says, now is the only moment you really know exists, and so you have to embrace it. And he's right. Although pique drives me to add that John has been sounding more and more like a fortune cookie lately.