Out of all the creatures you’ve encountered in life, what most resembles a zombie?
Old people, without question. No one says it because, one - it’s rude, and two - we all love Pop Pop and Grandma. It’s time to face the facts people. Old people are fucking zombies, or at least distant cousins. This idea came to my head a few weeks back while walking the streets of San Francisco. We walked past droves of homeless drug users, hippies, and mentally unstable people, none of which frightened me in the least. However, one of the days, I first heard and then saw a really old man. He was across the street making his way down a handicap ramp outside of a building. His back was hunched, like someone had a knife pressed into his chest, and his arms hung lifelessly at his sides. From across the street I heard the air being forced out of his old man lungs in short wheezes. As he made his way down the ramp, his feet never left contact with the ground. He just plodded forward with his zombie shuffle, one dirty Velcro shoe after the other.
That was the first the first time I was afraid in San Francisco. Not because of a misguided, miscreant who maybe smoked meth on occasion. Not from the black dude who had a full conversation with something invisible next to us at a stop light. I was only afraid of this old creature. I thought about it and wondered why this man terrified me. He wasn’t physically able to harm me; unless of course he had some transmittable disease that he could cough up from somewhere deep inside his dehydrated lungs. Really there was nothing to be afraid of besides his look. Sure he moved like something from 28 Days Later, with cold black eyes sunken deep into his skull. Like the black guy, the old man would mumble indecipherable sounds as he shuffled on thin, loose skinned legs. But there was no reason to be afraid of him was there?
Yes there fucking was. I just told you, he was a zombie, straight out of a movie. He was a corpse walking; only able to manage a few of his biological controls. Walking, breathing, chewing, and occasionally he could muster up the strength to let out a toxic gas bubble without shitting himself. Now, look up bodily functions of a zombie and you will find the same list. At a certain point, old people become something very alien, something terrifying.
It bothered me that I was afraid of this old man. He probably didn’t want me to be afraid of him, but I was. Then I realized why he scared me. Out of all the scumbags in the world, all the drug addicts, the mentally insane, the handicapped — old people are the closes to death. Another frightening aspect is the inevitability of old age. If you live long enough, you are going to be infected with this degenerative zombie disease called old age. You might escape the grasp of drug addiction or avoid it all together. Some doctor might be able to stop the symptoms of mental illness through therapy and medication. But there’s no coming back from old age; no pill, no remedy, no hope. You see people fight it with Botox injections and push-ups, but eventually old age will catch you. Old age will put you in Velcro shoes and round your spine back toward the earth. It will take your teeth, as well as your once-sharp mind. Old age will eventually turn everyone into a zombie shuffling along the sidewalk, gasping for one more precious breath.
My father had to go help my grandfather off of the toilet this morning. He’s had a series of strokes and his body doesn’t always do as it’s told anymore. His mind is still there but the information can no longer be accessed with speed. Even the information he does recall quickly is sometimes slurred and jumbled in his slow attempt to express it.
The human body only lasts so long even if it is taken care of. The human mind is a little more resilient, but eventually, it too begins to fade.
I was watching a show called Mountain Men the other day, and one of the old guys said something that I completely agree with. His brother was talking to him about retirement and moving back to the city to be closer to people who can take care of him. He said something to the tune of:
I told my wife, if I’m ever out here on the porch and you have to come out to wipe the drool off my face. Put me on my horse, give me my pistol, and send me into the mountains. Tell me to send the horse back.
I’m not going out like a zombie. I’ll take the horse and pistol method.