Unable to sleep due to my terror of waking up in the morning (naturally), I started reading a really excellent book. Then I started coughing too much due to lying down, so I got up. Again. And remembered why I read fantasy almost exclusively. Because the book I started reading is a slice-of-life romance.
Real life is terrifying. It is incredibly dry, and at the same time so humid with meaning and feeling and symbols that I can barely breathe.
Literally every object in this room is a swirling maelstrom of joy and pain, comfort and terror.
There’s a happy meal toy on the table beside me. It’s beautifully balanced, yet cynically crappy (excuse me, why does pushing its feet together make the wings flap? It’s very cool to my 1-year old, but where’s the biological logic there?) Since it’s from a large company, some or all of was probably made in an overseas sweatshop – ironically, by children. My son finds it empowering to pretend to be a fierce creature, like that dragon. The script is well-prepared: He holds the dragon and says, “Raar!” and I scream. He says, “Rar!” and I scream again. My daughter played exactly the same game at exactly the same age.
This is a fun game. We both know the rules, we both like the silliness, we play it over and over and over. I don’t have to move and I don’t have to think. That makes it a good game, worthy to be encouraged.
The funny thing is, I am afraid of him. My son. When he screams – which he does often; he’s 1 – my heart races, my head throbs, my mind blanks, and my gut clenches.
I am the BuffyBot; when I malfunction I go home to be fixed, and to hide from the Big Bad until I’m better. But the Big Bad is my kids versus my too-fragile mind and body, and the Big Bad lives in my safe house, and the Big Bad isn’t big or bad, and I never get fixed…
Everything in this room has an epic tale of light and dark to it: the free curtains that aren’t quite long enough; the TV that takes ten minutes to turn on; the recliner that requires a karate kick to close up again; the doona spilling from its cover; the jackets on the floor beneath their hooks; the plastic cup with milo residue inside; the bouquet of TV remotes; the scribbled notes (mine) and painting (kids); the Salvo’s couches in forest and mossy green; the much-peed-upon carpet that fits the room so perfectly.
And THAT is why I write fantasy. Because I can’t bear to look around at ordinary life, and see the layers and implications underneath everything. Real dragons are easier to fight than toy ones.