Monday, April 09, 2007

Apocalypse, Easter, Apocalypse, Easter

Friday night, while shopping at Target for Easter basket filler, I spotted Cormac McCarthy's newest book The Road. He's a favorite of mine and that book has been on my wish list since it launched so I grabbed a copy (the Orprah sticker fortunately removable) and tossed it on top of the mountain of purple Peeps, jelly beans and Robin eggs. Maybe not the most inspired Easter purchase but relatively apropos for Good Friday.
Then, yesterday, we imported a beloved Houston tradition begun a few years ago by the ever gracious and hospitable Marcella, our former neighbor, by inviting all the families on our "street" over for an Easter egg hunt. The night before Wayne and I sat on the floor and filled 12 dozen eggs while watching The Children of Men, a movie set in a bleak and horrifying 2027. The youngest person on the planet, age 18, has been murdered. The youngest person being 18 years old because 18 years prior, for undetermined reasons, all women became infertile and no more children were born. The world, bereft of the laughter, hope and imperatives of order children engender, falls into chaos and violence. I won't give the story away but a tiny ray of hope does finally puncture the endless wasteland of unmitigated brutality in the end. On that disquieting note I eventually dropped to off sleep but woke to a bright and sunny, albeit chilly, Easter morning. Church bells rang out as we arrived for Easter services and echoed brightly in our ears as left.

Later, when the day had warmed enough the kids could run for eggs without coats on, our neighbors arrived. Giggles and shouts rang out over greening hills which seemed, for a moment, to have emerged from a storybook. The adults migrated to the kitchen table (why do people have living and dining rooms?), the kids downstairs to the playroom, and that is where everyone remained for the duration. A couple of hours later everyone had slowly drifted home and after I had cleaned up candy wrappers and cake plates and retrieved the sun tea I had forgotten to serve from the deck, I settled down with McCarthy's book and didn't get up again till I finished it.
It's a riveting story, again post-Apocalypse, in which a father and son roam the scorched and deadened earth waging a daily war to procure warmth and sustenance, both of which are in extremely short supply. Their other chief occupation is avoiding contact with the few remaining humans they encounter who would waste no time in killing and eating them, should they get the opportunity. Yet from this feral wilderness, and with minimal dialogue, McCarthy wrings a portrait of staggering love--a father and a son's-- and their incessant will to endure without a lick of sentimentality. I was wrecked by the end and sorry the story was over.
I finished shortly before midnight and in the fog of this heartbreaking love story loomed the morning exam I had avoided thinking about for the past week. I was scheduled for a second mammogram after having gotten abnormal results on my regular yearly checkup. It occurred to me then, as I fought off rising tears, that maybe I should have saved the book for after the test. I resorted to taking an over-the-counter sleep aid, knowing I'd lay there all night no longer able to avoid imagining every possible scenario and never get to sleep.
I woke up bleary and quite anxious to get the thing over with. I could make the story drag on just as long as the interminable minutes I endured this morning (as did Wayne in the waiting room) between the mammogram x-rays the radiologist slipped out with, returning to shuffle me to the ultrasound room where I watched another radiologist coax a big, black lump into make a number appearances on the screen before she too disappeared ("That's not supposed to be there, is it?" I'd asked with the calmest voice I could muster) then reappeared with a doctor who introduced himself, sat down in the driver's seat and, grabbing the ultrasound shiftstick, went for a very long drive before finally delivering a verdict. My mind replaying every weird thing that has occurred lately, sifting scenes and statements for significance, grasping for a telling sign. "Will you ALWAYS be my mommy?" My daughter has repeatedly, and unnervingly, asked this week. Every fear you've ever had rolled into one. My body trembling on the cot.
Knowing one minute is all it takes for your life to shift forever. Yours and then not yours. Instantly and keenly aware of how stupidly you live your life, the sorry things you worry about, the wasted time. Recognizing this is the tightrope we all walk on, obliviously, day by day. One day Easter baskets, the next Apocalypse. One word and I will fall. One word all it will take to pluck the tightrope like a bow and sending me sailing. Or hanging on by my fingernails.
He finally said the word and it clanged in head like a bell or a benediction: benign, benign, benign. It's still ringing.


Anthony said...

I am happy for you and glad the news was that you are well. My heart rose into my throat as I read and kept thinking, Oh Allison!!! And then, and then, thankfully...thank God, thank God.

Karen Miedrich-Luo said...

I cant'
i will tomorrow

Jenni said...

Thank God you are OK! I was nervous while reading, too. Praise God.

You had a lovely Easter, and Oprah does have surprisingly good taste in books at times, huh? I need to get into McCarthy's work. I love that you finished The Road in one sitting. I look forward to being less distracted in our house - I've been a bad reader lately.

Anonymous said...

a long breath taken