According to the news hound in my family, Peel County where I live in Mississauga, west of Toronto, Canada, had the longest lock down on the planet. I don’t know. I do know it was very long.
It began when our premier told those over 70 not to leave home. Eventually I discovered that chewing chair legs was not nourishing and boldly went forth in search of food. Terrified at my advanced age – I could actually have a child of 70 – but well-informed and masked and hand-washed, I went into grocery stores.
It went on and on. I had a solitary birthday in May and a solitary Thanksgiving and a Christmas on video chat, which made me crazy.
The year swung around and I was back to February when the whole nasty plague thing had hit a year before. My daughter forwarded an item from the New York Times about the Anthropocene Era -the era when we humans are doing our best to wreck the planet and probably bring about the end of civilization as we know it.
I decided to read Roy Stanton’s book Learning to Die in the Anthropocene in which he analyzed how our civilization developed in concert with the geological eras, describing, for example how early humanity fled rising temperatures in Africa, migrating to more temperate climates. He went on to describe the climate warming that is now upon us with catastrophic storms, rising temperatures and sea levels. The summer of 2021 provided so many examples that the argument against climate change changed in a week. Well, okay, so it exists. Now what?
I went on to read a second book by the same title by Bringhurst and Zwicky, as well as The Mushroom at the End of the World, The Collapse of Western Civilization by Oreskes and Conway, The Great Derangement and The Hungry Tide by Ghosh and The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell
Then I began reading Cl Fi (Climate Fiction). I didn’t know such a thing existed. I read New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson. (New York streets are now deep canals and the high rises have been waterproofed and are still inhabited although some apartments are underwater.) Robinson has a series of such books. NK Jemisin’s books, beginning with The Fifth Season, a series of 3 novels. Flight Behavior by Kingsolver, Leave the World Behind by Rumann Alam.
Suddenly, I realized I was happy. I have never been a happy person. Circumstances mitigated against it. But now I had an idea. Oddly enough, I woke up from a dream with the opening scene in my head. I would set the story in Colombia a hundred years in the future and tell of how the people there were dealing with the physical challenges of the new climate and the attendant civil breakdown. I had, after all, watched what looked like the breakdown of a great democracy during the lock down. I started mainlining books about Colombia, although Gabriel Garcia Marquez had set me up with a wealth of knowledge beginning with A Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in a Time of Cholera.
I could hardly wait to get back to my desk every morning.
Finally in the summer, fully vaccinated, I traveled to California to meet my great grand daughters, their parents and my daughter. I had seen the 4-year-old only once when she was an infant and I had never seen the 2-year-old.
Why are you telling us this?
Because my hand had discovered a knob on my sternum. My hand knew it wasn’t really a knobby bone. It knew and my subconscious knew that after 23 years, I had breast cancer again. But I might never at the age of 85 see these children again, so I went. I came back delighted and wrote without cease. I haven’t watched television since late June.
I knew that the key to the meaning of the book lay in the ‘Breaking News’ inserts between each chapter, but repressed knowledge led me to send the first draft without the inserts to Beta readers. I would say they hated it, but it is more accurate to say they couldn’t understand it.
So, I started all over again, but I also went to the doctor. Having delayed for too long, I was now aware that hospitals were overcrowded with the Covid D Variant and surgeries were being delayed. Not, it turned out if the diagnosis was breast cancer. A month after my first doctor visit, I had day surgery at one of the Trillium Hospitals. Only it wasn’t day surgery because I developed rapid heart beat and Afib. I felt fine, except an annoyingly loud bell rang every time my heart went crazy. I figured out it happened when I held my breath. Funny thing. I endeavored to breathe. And brilliant idea – they hooked me up to oxygen.
So, home again, home again. Two weeks where every day has been a new and different problem. No machine, no loud bell. A lot of deep breathing. First it was pain, then a leaking drain and then constipation. Finally, the drain had done its job and I could stop worrying about bloody bandages, Removing the plastic tube felt 100% better until it didn’t, because now I was free to feel all the bruises and muscle pain and raw places from the steristrips. And it must be said, no matter what your age losing your best breast is a grievous thing.
Today I planned to get back to writing a scene set in Cali, Colombia, after a 1000 year storm. It will be a lunch meeting of the local Narcos to convince them to support the decriminalization of Class A drugs. They are already ‘legal’ in Colombia, but the goal is to legalize them worldwide. The results in terms of loss of life and reduction in criminality as well as easier access to healthcare for addicts has proven itself in such countries as Portugal.
This is one step in the protagonists’ – Salvador and Alena – plans to reduce the risk of attack on their own Hacienda. Someone is clearly trying to kill Alena. Not only are the Narcos threats, so is the government, including parts of the air force, random roaming gangs, Mossad and Alena’s former mother-in-law.
I couldn’t write though. I was wrestling with getting enough fiber into my system. Salad, pears, vegetable soup, metamucil, magnesium, raspberry jelly made with mineral oil and dried fruit. But I did find I could read my research notes. They inspired me all over again, but I also got a glimpse of the size of the project.
Now that I am not going to die of cancer, I’m just going to have to slow down and take it step by step.
The Beta readers were prone to saying, “You seem to have a good novel in your head, but not on paper.”
A previous post included the prologue which explains the title, I Trust You to Kill Me. https://115journals.com/2021/08/11/new-novel-goes-to-beta-readers/
Thoughtful reminiscences of lockdown. You are such a good writer, Joyce. I’d be glad to read the next version of this novel.
Thank you for your kind response.