Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Degrees of Panic

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Degrees of Panic

Erik began screaming last night in the middle of his bath. Straight out of the blue. Brian and I hastily dried him off and put him in his pajamas as he continued to wail. I carried him to the living room and held him against me. Within a matter of seconds, I felt the temperature of his skin increasing to an alarmingly fiery level against my neck. We set Erik on the floor for a moment, and he slowly collapsed, resting his forehead against the couch in a delirious haze. His temperature read over 101 degrees, yet we knew our thermometer always reports measurements on the low side. Although he seemed perfectly fine before he was happily deposited into the bathtub, at this point, he just couldn't seem to hold his head up. We tried to force the last of the Children's Tylenol we had in the house down his gullet with a dropper, but he spit it out, continuing to scream. I couldn't blame him. The medicine was awful, ancient, bubblegum-flavored stuff crystallizing in a small plastic bottle. The boy is simply never sick. I stuffed my feet into my shoes, threw on a coat too light for the weather conditions, and drove to the store.

As I carefully plucked boxes of Advil and Tylenol from the shelf in front of the deserted, shuttered pharmacy and made my way to the baking aisle for Erik's favorite flavors of gelatin, I found myself dodging large, drunken bears of men in their 20s. I feel so incredibly tall at the store during the day. Not so much at night. Everyone I encountered seemed like an obstacle I needed to overcome. A portion of the crowd beat me to the 15 items or less checkstand as I came around the corner. They glanced at the paltry contents of my basket and frantically counted items to justify their rightful places in line in front of me. The remainder of the checkout stands were clogged with noisy shoppers. I wanted to scream. Five girls madly pounding out text messages on their phones purchased a number of small items. Their lengths of platinum hair, streaked with some sort of gothic black dye, were all sprayed into place in an almost identical fashion. They all wore the same type of hip-hugging jeans and layers of thick makeup. They looked absolutely identical. What struck me the most was how they labored to work golfball-sized gobs of chewing gum with their mandibles. It looked like painful, ridiculous work. After my irritation was overcome by amusement, I attempted to guess their ages but found myself completely stumped. Their transactions came to a close, and the freakishly tall and spindly gray-haired couple behind them walked a couple of steps forward beside a chubby block of mozzarella and some produce wrapped in a strange collection of used plastic bags riding on the conveyor belt. The checker, who appeared as if he had a horrendous case of scoliosis, strained to look up at this couple, confused by the strange bags. They haughtily explained they were reusing bags they had at home. I groaned to myself and glanced down at one of the eco-friendly bags I always bring with me to bag my groceries in. I could have cared less if my groceries were bagged in asbestos at this point.

Come on, come onnnnnnn. Get the hell out of my way.

Finally, I was free to walk out with my purchases. The automatic door hissed open, and the store spat me out into the dark, 25-degree evening studded with an amazing array of winking stars and planets. My Jeep suddenly looked as if I had parked it miles away, and I quickened my already frenzied pace, passing numerous people carrying cardboard-encased blocks of cheap beer like a stream of drunken ants. A large truck nearly ran me over and then screeched to a halt. The man walking in front of me yanked the door open and jumped into the passenger seat. I climbed in my own vehicle at last, slammed the door, and locked myself in. I turned the key and felt the world come into focus again. I reminded myself to slow down.

Even mama bears get speeding tickets.

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Blogger Katie said...

I hope Eric is feeling better,

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Little Brother said...

Hope Erik is doing OK. Seems like everyone down here has a severe cold or flu this year.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Poor Eric. I hope he feels better soon. I feel the same way shopping at our local Walmart during broad day light. I get the heebygeebies.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

I think you just put every little feeling I have ever had precisely into this blog. The panic you get when your wee one needs you and the world is a road block! I hope both you Eric and daddy are handling things and Erik speeds his way to recovery.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Every minute counts.... said...

I hope that Erik starts feeling better. We have had the flu around our house and are still trying after a week to recover from it! YUCK!


7:38 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

It sounds like you met the modern 2008 version of the Robert Palmer girls. I'm glad Erik is feeling better.

8:55 AM  
Blogger kathi said...

Dang, girl, you can write. I'm palying catch up, so now I've got to go read how he is...

7:08 PM  

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