I have a new baby. As of today, my son Charlie is a full 3 weeks old and going through nappies like your overweight co-worker ploughs through bags of Quavers.
It turns out that despite 9 months of advice and knowledge passed down to me from the myriad mothers and fathers who came out of the woodwork just to make me feel inept before the thing was even squeezed out, nobody really explained how strange it all is. The first two weeks are like living in a state that is at once stoned, hungover, elated, depressed, alive, dead, happy, angry, and so very hungry. You are not a human for those first few days. Your soul is sucked out for storage in some ethereal cloud and you are left to function as a basic flesh covered machine, who is able to hold, feed and change a baby but do very little else.
Because I had to get through this and then return to a lacklustre day job, I elected to sleep the majority of each night on the sofa, waking at occasional intervals to feed and wind the little person who doesn’t yet discern night from day, just hungry from not hungry.
The constant waking and resettling leaves you even more of a zombie than you are in the daytime, and so it was with a weary, dreary, discombobulated heart that one night last week I retook my place on the living room chair and tried to settle, only to be immediately shocked back to life by the presence of what turned out to be a mosquito.
It didn’t buzz like a fly. That would have been okay. As a new parent you find yourself becoming not just accustomed to, but comforted by white noise and constant humming from the fridge, tumble dryer, washing machine etc. But this mosquito arrived in my lounge with a staccato wing beating.
Buzz. Quiet. Buzz. Quiet. Buzz. Quiet. Lands on my neck and starts sniffing for blood. I waft my hand to get rid. Buzz. Quiet. Buzz. Quiet. Buzz. Quiet. Lands on the exact same spot. I spring forward, now awake. Now filled with rage. And the disjointed buzz takes the insect away towards the TV in the corner.
It was still dark. I was trying to convince myself that if I just kept quiet I would find sleep and the mosquito would find its way out. But the buzzing and stopping soon returned, hunting out my tender neck for a midnight (more like 1:45am) feast. That’s when I decided it was time for this little critter to meet its maker.
The lamp was switched on. I clasped a rolled up A4 flyer in one hand and a scrunched man-size tissue in the other; the ultimate double threat to any insect. My eyes were burning from accumulated lack of sleep, but in the dullness of the room, which resembled a badly taken photo covered in noise, I spotted the enemy, floating about randomly as if some master puppeteer were bouncing it on a piece of fishing wire.
It landed on the wall behind the sofa; the white wall in an otherwise dark red room. I could see it and I had it. I elected for the tissue. I would lunge forward and snatch the mosquito from the wall, balling it inside the Kleenex at lightning speed and crushing the life from it. It was staring toward the wall. The moron had its back to me. I crept. I paused. I lunged. Parenthood, it seems, makes you slower than a Manatee crawling through treacle. I was still thrusting the tissue through the air as the smug little bastard buzzed and bobbed away toward the fireplace.
I shook my head. Not in disbelief. Rather shook it very quickly, with loose lips as if I were a cartoon dog shaking water from my jowls. It was a vain attempt at properly waking myself up. I followed the trajectory of the creature’s ridiculous flight pattern. It wasn’t easy. Like trying to trace a golf ball’s trajectory off a tee on a 10 inch TV. But I had him. He clung to the edge of the mantelpiece and I didn’t wait. I brought the tissue down like I were the mighty Thor himself, clubbing my living room furniture with a soft, white Mjolnir effigy. And he had gone a good second before the knuckles on my left hand grazed the edge of the fireplace.
I’m not going to keep describing the many failures I experienced over the next 40 minutes. Sufficed to say I eventually came out the victor. It seems the universe does like to reward the tenacious, the resilient, the desperate. And I finally crawled under the blanket again at just after 2:30 feeling a mite satisfied. I shut my eyes and smiled as much as my body would let me, ready for a well-earned dose of REM sleep. The baby monitor crackled to life with cries of anguish. It was time to get up.
If you’ve got this far you’re most likely either worried for me, or impatiently waiting for a reason for the anecdote. The reason is Vince Gilligan. It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to talk about Breaking Bad, and I thought it had all been said. But the moment described above made one particular episode of Breaking Bad all the more real. All the more plausible.
Season 3, Episode 10 is simply called ‘Fly’, and it is perhaps the simplest of all the setups from Breaking Bad’s five season run. A fly is loose in Walt’s lab, and he has to kill it before it contaminates the meth. Whilst the episode is a lot of fun, at the time of release it seemed a little like filler. A ‘bottle’ episode is what they call it. Something easy to film on a small budget, restricted to one location. I always enjoyed it. It’s a moment of schadenfreude that provides light relief in an otherwise ever increasing tension pot of a series. But I also questioned the break in realism it offered, when contrasted to the high stakes, deep drama of the story it broke up.
Now I know that there’s nothing more real. There is nothing that can contend with the rage you feel when an already difficult world is interrupted by a tiny creature that is hell bent on flying straight through your wall of sanity. It becomes a very personal war to end a largely harmless creature’s life. Even if that means destroying things of value all around you. You’d step on a thousand Faberge eggs and not register a single shard. I know it because I’ve lived it.
I wonder if Vince Gilligan has done the same.
I didn’t think there was any possible way to respect Breaking Bad more. But the fly and the mosquito have helped me to do just that.