Those Ole Emergency Room Blues

My wife and I watched the most recent Pet Sematary tonight and it got me thinking about what a huge part Stephen King has played in my life. IT was the first novel I ever read. (At Boy Scout camp. At night, in a tent, during Florida thunderstorms. So yeah, permanently scarred.) His On Writing is one of the best books on being a writer that I’ve read. I saw him speak in Seattle shortly after he was able to walk again after his accident and it was inspirational. The Dark Tower books were an unbelievable journey in and of themselves but were also a bonding moment between my youngest brother and me. And my favorite chapter of all time is Chapter 38 of The Stand.IMG_0498

After several chapters setting up the start and consequences of the “superflu” (AKA “Captain Trips”), Stephen King does an entire chapter about the “second epidemic”, all the people who died of “natural death” after the pandemic had already destroyed 99.4% of the world’s population. When I read that chapter in high school, I was floored by it. Each death felt like a fully fleshed-out story. My mind reeled contemplating at how a skinny, near-sighted kid like me would have fared in a post-pandemic world. (I didn’t think the odds were in my favor.) It’s a chapter that always stuck with me and, when The Stand came back into the public eye thanks to COVID-19, I was reminded of that section.

As recently as yesterday I read an article about how ER doctors are worried because of the steep decline in stroke and heart attack patients, and it reminded me of Chapter 38.

Things are crazy right now (and they’re going to continue that way for a while) but, thankfully, they’re not Captain Trip’s crazy.

To Shave or Not to Shave

Today went a lot better than yesterday. Productive morning. Had a good chat with my brother. Finally managed to do laundry and, as a result, broke 10,000 steps on my Fitbit for the first time since we self-quarantined.

In the middle of the day, my wife told me that she’d read in an article that women will change their hair drastically after a break-up or other stressful event because it gives them a sense of control. It’s something in their power to change. She then said that, with so many things out of our control right now, if I wanted to shave my head, she was cool with it.

Amazing of her to suggest it (especially since I know how she feels about shaved heads) and I’ve been contemplating it all day. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve shaved my head. The first time was my first year in Japan and, while I loved it, the backlash from work was awe-inspiring. I grew it back out and didn’t shave it again for the rest of my time overseas.

The second time was when I was living in Seattle, shortly after moving back to the U.S. In retrospect, I can see that that time it was a control thing. I was fighting reverse-culture shock as well as what probably a serious case of depression. I wanted to feel low-maintenance as well as get away with something I couldn’t in Japan. It only lasted a few months but it was empowering when I did it.

As for now, it seems like this is the perfect time. I won’t be going back to work until June 1st at the earliest and, oh who are we kidding? Theme parks aren’t going to reopen any time soon. But that’s part of why I’m hesitant to shave my head. Yes, it’ll be easier and all but it also means that I’m accepting that this [gestures at everything] won’t end any time soon.

Then again, maybe I need a drastic physical act to drive home that this is going to be the new normal for a while.

We’ll see.