The Outbreak

Friday, April 15, 2005

Next time I leave for this long I will post something first, I promise. I didn't mean to scare anyone, but then I get back and I've got all these emails. Here I am, I'm here, I'm okay.

After we heard about Ken's mother, that was it. The next morning at dawn we packed up a few things, put Lucy in the carrying case--because we had no idea if it would be feasible to come back once we'd left, and we didn't want her starving to death or becoming yet another animal for the Leopolds to feed--got in the Altima and started driving to see my family in Garden City.

By now you've probably done this yourselves, whoever you are, in some fashion or another. My guess is that's why there's been this relapse over the past couple of days. Once people got the message that traveling was potential suicide, they stayed in. But at a certain point, you start running out of food, water, supplies, sanity. So people start emerging. And even if most of the revs from the breakout days have been put down, now we know that it's self-perpetuating. There will always be new ones, usually quicker than the crews can get to them. If a dad in a family of six dies of a heart attack in the middle of the night--oh, Christ. Get out, out, out, out of my brain, get out.

Anyway, the car ride. I don't know if you remember this anymore, because it seems like it happened so long ago, like the '80s. But if you remember the big ice storm/blizzard thing that happened in February, I guess it was? It took me five hours to get home from work that day. It alternated from being the scariest driving I've ever done--zero visibility, couldn't go any faster than 20 miles an hour without careening right off the road, terrified that at any moment the car ahead or behind or, god help us, passing might lose it and smash into me--to the most exruciatingly dull driving I've ever done--15 miles in three hours.

This was like that. And thinking of it like that helped: "It's like being stuck in a blizzard. Yes, it's scary, and frustrating, but if you go slow you'll be okay." If you repeated that last part often enough you believed it.

They'd cleared the Southern State, mostly. I mean, there were wrecks everywhere, more wrecks than they could tow away, but they were at least moved off to the shoulders, or at worst to the far right or left lane. Crews were EVERYWHERE. Flashing red, blue, yellow lights as far as the eye could see, cops standing on top of the cars with their guns out at each exit. Each one had a little pile of bodies next to it. There were more of those than they could tow away too, I guess.

We took a guess as to what exit to get off at, trying to figure out what roads would be the clearest. We went with Hempstead Avenue. Our guess was that if we took side-ish roads, there was just not enough volume on them ever to produce much wreckage, and hopefully all the neighborhoods were cleared out enough to travel through. We got lucky. Garden City South was clear enough that people were actually outside, mostly just sitting on their porches or standing in driveways and talking to each other. Or not talking to each other. We saw a lot of people just standing around, not doing much of anything except staring at us as we drove past. Some people were like us and covered from head to toe with coats, gloves, scarves, hats, sunglasses. Sweating like bastards. Other people were in their pajamas. There weren't a whole lot in between. You either have your act together at this point or you don't. It makes it easier to know who to steer clear of.

The house was pretty much the same as it always was aside from the boards. It wasn't until I stepped inside that I realized how fucking scary the whole fucking fucking thing fucking was fucking. I was 100% convinced that someone would pop out of the backyard and grab Amy the second we stepped out of the car and walked the three feet into the side door, I realized. And we did it anyway. I don't know what that says, does it say anything?

Mom, Dad, Ryan, Caitlin, all okay. All glad it happened at Easter so Caitlin was home and not in Philly. Cats okay, Dad looking thinner, thank god. Neither my mom nor my dad drank a drop since it started, they told me, which i had been worried about. But I think I remember that from 9/11, too. Or did I make that up? I went to Amy's apartment that day the moment she got home from work and slept over. Years ago. Anyway, he was eating better. My hero. I love my Dad. I always think about him being in the Marine reserves at Parris Island, like, what the hell was he doing there? He's my Dad! They better be nice to him! He and Ryan were so quick that they hadn't had to kill anyone, not even poor Mr. Stone next door, who finally twigged out--that whole place looked like a hurricane hit, or that tornado that went up and down the block the week we moved in in 1985. They said they'd never been so happy they lived near so many nuts--for days they were in the basement not because of the revs but because of the bullets. Even Mr. DiFazio, finally out of the closet, so to speak, a bunch of "friends of his" took an afternoon last week and went house to house before any of the crews.

News of the extended family: Grandma and Pa-Pa got one phone call out of the rescue station. They are NOT fucking around in Florida, which stuns me, but people made it their business to focus on those retirement communities first thing, which makes a lot of sense if you give it any thought. Which someone obviously did. It's all individual initiative that gets anything done right, i'm completely convinced. Cousins, aunts, uncles okay. Except for my cousin Chris. He was on tour and they haven't heard from him. I am trying not to expect the worst. It is impossible not to suspect the second-worst, though. Impossible. You hold onto the second-worst as hard as you can, actually. Don't YOU?

Why did we come back? Because we had to. It's not our house, and things are not so bad that getting back to a semblance of real life is completely out of the question in a month, two months, maybe less. Staying there is just--well, well, it's like this. If you can go back and forth, how bad can it be? "See you next week, Mommy. I love you." Say it and mean it. Mom was really upset, didn't want us to leave. And I'm worried it inspired Ryan to try and get Sarah. But maybe he should.

When we got back today the people who ran away from next door, their car was gone. But Kurt said one of the people down the block took it, hotwired it, took it. That's all.


Post a Comment

<< Home