For once, she got most of the pop-culture references in the pitch for her wife’s newest play right away. Anyone who survived the American public-schools while mostly-conscious has a glancing understanding of Shakespeare, so as long as you know George Romero directed the first modern zombie film NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, you can quickly piece together what ROMERO AND JULIET meant. She certainly did. While she grew up doubly-isolated from the zeitgeist in many ways, both as a woman from a farming hamlet north of the Catskills and also as passionate about the life sciences from a precocious age, horror pictures like that were not part of her blind-spot. The weird hours of farm-living lent to watching the sorts of movies that don’t run at prime-time and, anyway, she loved imagining how monsters might work in our reality. Some rare blood disorder? An odd sort of brain parasite? She may not have appreciated those films for their camp elements as way her artsy wife did but she certainly knew what ROMERO AND JULIET meant.
Of course, some overly-sentimental necromancer would misunderstand the story of a seventeen-year-old boy and a thirteen-year-old girl deeply in lust as a romance for the ages then raise them up from dry bones supine on suicide slabs to rekindle that flame of love, accidentally unleashing an undead plague in their wake. It made sense, even to her own often-clinical thinking.
Which isn’t to say she agreed with all the creative choices, her wife’s script focused too much on kitsch and intentional schlock for her taste. She wanted to know the biological mechanism of the zombie apocalypse whereas her love wrote a seven-page sequence just to get four characters to a point of they’d barely survived a vampire attack then quickly being ambushed by a hoard of the Bavarian undead celebrating Oktoberflesh, just for a line about how their situation had just gone from Vlad to wurst. Why stretch so far for obtuse puns when you could instead posit undeath as a symptom of flawed mitochondrial reproduction, right?
Still, she could appreciate the play more readily than most of her betrothed’s statement projects. There are sure worse metaphors for adolescent hormonal mania than slavering ghouls wrecking house all across Europe, trying to slake their thirsts for warm flesh.
Sometimes that what love, real love not just-teenage-fumblings, is all about. Taking a thing your partner’s passionate about and breaking it down from all sides until you can find the angles from which you can appreciate it too. If not for the horrible puns, then at least for the gratifying mental exercise of explaining zombies with science.
In fact, it ended up being one of the few times her wife used one of her suggested lines in a final draft: “True love can die. But sometimes it comes back anyway.” Which applied to them as well, love usually found a way to lead them to agreement, even if the path was strange and usually the long way ‘round.