emergency lockdown
Mothers Day evening, Linette and I were in bed reading the Sunday New York Times. The cats are in bed with us. Everyone seems to be happy. Whats more, the sheets are clean, and our bellies are full. Things, I think to myself in a fleeting moment of optimism, are pretty damned good. Then, as if on cue, the phone rings. Its our friend Jen, the woman who runs the lesbian health and entertainment site that were always plugging here at MM.com. She wants for us to know that our area is under a “state of emergency.” Apparently, theres just been some kind of chemical spill up the street from us.


So, we hang up and turn on the local NPR, where we hear the voice of an overwhelmed DJ. As its Sunday night, after 11:00 PM, the guys all alone in the studio and the phones are ringing. He tells us, Please dont call me. Right now you know everything I know. Then he announced the name of his show, something like On the Mellow Side, and went into some upbeat jazzy number. Linette and I looked at each other, not quite sure what to do, having not heard what preceded the, Now you know everything I know, comment. We wait the song out and hear him repeat it.

The chemical spill is apparently within a five-minute walk of our house. He gives the intersection where it took place. Not many details are known, except that we have been advised by the Department of Public Safety to close all of our windows and doors, turn off any ventilation systems, heaters, or fans we might have on, and go immediately to the highest floor of our house… Oh, were also told that the wind is blowing in our direction.

We weigh our options Should we see if we can make it to the car and then drive away from here, or should we take the advice of the Mellow Side DJ and stay put?

We begin to work our way around the problem, laying out the different scenarios and visualizing our deaths in a number of fascinating ways. We both bring our covers to our mouths and begin to breathe through them.

After some discussion as to whether or not we could take the animals (I said that there was no way we could have the dog and the cats, who we have to segregate by floor here at home, in the small Honda Hybrid together), we decide to take our chances here in Ypsilanti.

Linette offers to cut a bra in half so that we can use the cups as gas masks. (She saw it being done on TV.) We laugh for a moment and then both of us, simultaneously, say, Does your throat hurt?

Both of us are convinced that were just being hypochondriacs, but it doesnt change the fact that our throats are beginning to burn and our lungs are beginning to feel as though theyre filled with heavy syrup I begin to watch the cats, thinking that will be the only way I can know for sure, as they probably wouldnt have been influenced by the guy on NPR. I expect to see them weaving around and falling, but they look fine at least for the moment.

Linette says a few times, This is just like White Noise, a book Ive started on three occasions and never finished. Apparently, in the book, a toxic cloud hovers over their town. Linette says the discussions the characters have in the book are much like those that were having. This is apparently the kind of stuff that people talk about when they think they might be dying.

This is of little comfort.

We wonder how, if we were to be evacuated, they would get us out of the house. The Ypsilanti Fire Department, we thought, probably doesnt have a thousand has-mat suits on hand, and they probably dont have a big, airtight tube that they can run right up to your doorstep. Our only option is to sit and wait, and thats what we do. We sit there in bed, sometimes breathing through sheets and sometimes not, listening to mellow jazz songs and waiting for more word on the state of emergency.

We, I guess, are optimistic. We dont start calling relatives and saying our goodbyes. We just sit there with the cats, listening to the radio and every now and then cursing ourselves for buying such a drafty old house. Eventually, we fall asleep.

(I have to go to sleep now. I will try to get on-line tomorrow and let you know whether or not we live.)

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