Kelly Davio’s previous Waiting Room columns can be found here.
I do not have much in common with my neurologist of many years, aside from our mutual interest in keeping me alive. He’s the sort of guy who takes vacations to go shoot at wildlife on the tundra. I, on the other hand, still get creeped out by eating egg yolks. I have a sneaking suspicion he’s of a libertarian bent, while I look at Hillary Clinton and think, “gee, I don’t know. She may be too conservative for my taste.” He wears a fishing vest much of the time for reasons I couldn’t begin to guess at. He finds the fact that I still sometimes insist on tottering around in high-heeled shoes equally perplexing.
But there is one thing we hold dearly in common, and that’s our joint enthusiasm for all things related to the zombie apocalypse. It’s not unusual for us to go over a previous week’s episode of The Walking Dead while he prods at me with spiky instruments, and I typically arrive early at my appointments so we can chat over which new apocalyptic paperbacks he’s reading. If he weren’t so busy with the likes of his patients, the man could, I believe, edit Best Zombie Fiction, 2015.
He recently told me about a new title featuring a character with, of all things, myasthenia gravis—the same rare neuromuscular disease I see him for. We had a laugh over the similarities between the way I walk on one of my worse days and the way a TV zombie waddles, though I maintain that I am still much cuter with my shuffle. But our conversation made me think about the fact that it’s incredibly rare to see or read about a character with any kind of debilitating condition in the never-ending stream of pop-culture zombie scenarios.
On the surface, a lack of us special cases on the post-apocalyptic scene makes sense—anybody tough enough to survive a pandemic-level virus must be specimen of good health, or so I suppose the thinking goes.
I, however, am not so sure. If anybody’s got the skill set to avoid a zombie-making virus, it’s those of us who, year after year, navigate flu season with suppressed immune systems. If anybody’s going to be able to out-maneuver a walking corpse, it’s those of us who daily make our way through public spaces that are as rife with potential danger as a forest brimming with the undead.
In fact, I think that sick girls will outlive everyone in the coming zombie apocalypse. You will never meet better tactical thinkers; we know which hours of the day we can go to the grocery store without running into a teeming horde of toddlers who’ll try to kick our canes out from under us (a weekend foray to Trader Joe’s is frankly excellent supply-run preparation in this regard). We know with eerie precision how many steps it’ll take to get to any marker in a room, and we can plot the best courses to conserve our energy. We are excellent at picking out which person on any crowded bus or train is most likely to whip around while wearing a giant backpack, smacking us in our faces. We are never taken by surprise.
Sick girls also know how to keep our food from killing us. We grill our lettuce, boil our bananas. We know that the unassuming grapefruit is really Satan’s softball, ready to interact spookily with any medication imaginable. We hydrate as though it were our paid profession, and our handbags are veritable pharmacies.
I further guarantee you that sick girls’ sanitizing game exceeds that of anybody on The Walking Dead. I know I’m not the only person who shudders when the adorable Glenn relieves a zombie of its head with his machete, then wipes a brain-covered forearm across a cut on his brow. Glenn, the sick girls of the world are here for you. We will minister to you with our Wet Ones and our Purell. We carry antibacterial bandages with us at all times, and we will let you have as many as you want. We are even fairly certain we could use our wiles to cajole the overripe Darrel into a soapy bath. At the very least, we have pocket-sized Lysol that we can use on him.
Something tells me that, all of the above notwithstanding, we’re not likely to see more of our sickly selves in pop cultural images of the world’s end. It’s a lot more enlivening to watch a powerhouse like Maggie Greene putting a piece of rebar through a walker’s eye socket than it is to watch girls like us waddle a well-planned and clear path through the forest. That’s okay. We’ll let you have your Maggie for now. But when the zombie apocalypse arrives, stick with us.
Kelly Davio is the co-publisher and poetry editor of Tahoma Literary Review and author of the poetry collection Burn This House (Red Hen Press, 2013). She is the former managing editor of The Los Angeles Review and is a reviewer for Women’s Review of Books. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, Verse Daily, The Rumpus, and others. She earned her MFA in poetry from Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, and is a freelance writer in the Seattle area.