Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Eating Fruit in the Dark

We are only two days away from hurricane Irma's unwelcome visit to our State. To say that it was horrible and unnerving would be a gross understatement. I feel as though I have aged a century since last Thursday, when workplaces closed down and  the declared state of emergency began to attain dimensions and reality.

I, too was carried on the wave of hysteria that washed me up before empty grocery store shelves. There was no bottled water, no paper plates or plastic ware, no bread, no canned eatables, and no sterno cans. I picked up a lot of fresh fruit (the storm was three days away, after all), some cat food, a jar of instant coffee, and the last case of eggs on the shelf. As I drove home, I wondered why the lack of bottled water bothered me. I drink tap water, do not care for the faint stale and bitter after-taste of bottled water, and I had already planned to fill up enough for me and my feline room mates. I had enough cat food for two weeks. And I knew that I would not need much food for myself.

As always, I remember the endless couple of days I had spent stuck in my grandmother's third story apartment as the city's river flowed 10 feet deep beneath our balcony. There was, of course, no electricity or running water and we spent the entire time watching broken off pieces of our familiar world stream by; a tire, tables, pots, suitcases swirled wildly in some sort of a twisted, macabre dance, refusing all recognizable functions and identities. We were not aware of the length of time spent staring. It was unreal.

This same unreality accompanied the hurricane days. This storm was larger than our State, and no one was to be spared its fury. Being so large, it moved slowly and the hours and days stretched as sheer madness churned the elements until everything outside dissolved into a primal wind soup. Inevitably, at one point, the electricity blinked off. I sat in that twilight world, in a world without time, thought, or light, not sure about what to do. I remembered the fruit in my refrigerator and began working on finishing it. This was the only focus and relevance of my entire existence. It felt bizarre, the burst of orange in my mouth, the fullness of watermelon, the richness of peach, it all felt like an undeserved, aimless gift. The relish and zing of the fruit tasted like proof of life.

Before the storm hit, I had tried to find someone to put my shutters up, but without wingnuts and a tall enough ladder, it proved to be impossible. When I found that my town was not to be a direct hit, but that we would mainly get tropical storm strength winds, I decided against boxing myself and the cats in a claustrophobic metal case; in fact, I left a window open, which kept the temperature in the house tolerable once the electricity was gone. It did feel like mad witches and ghouls dancing tornadoes outside but I think I would prefer those witches and ghouls to the sweaty, unnatural silence of shuttered up rooms. The cats and I spent the storm next to that window, on the bed, surrounded by LED torches (no candles in my home!), books, a storm radio, and the kindle. Every so often, the cell phone chirped in warning that a tornado was near. But after a while, that, too, became part of noise of the storm. The radio cackled with static and updates about feeder bands and flood warnings.

The morning never dawned but the storm turned silvery and sometimes forgot to be ferocious. It seemed that the world would never be normal, the way I remembered it. A thousand post-apocalyptic novels and settings flashed through my mind and I wondered how life would completely change once this storm was done with us. I lunched or breakfasted or dined on fruit and added some boiled eggs to my meal. I had boiled the entire case of eggs from those last frantic hours before the storm. Then I returned to the bed, returned to the waiting. Logic dictated that some time, perhaps hours, perhaps years from now, time must begin ticking again.

That was a couple of days ago, or was it yesterday? I forget. At any rate, it is past. I have not left the house in almost a week. My electricity has been restored; in fact, I did not have to miss any of my dialysis treatments and I remain unspeakably grateful for that. I am going back to work tomorrow.

As I sat at my desk, checking and responding to my email, I snacked on an orange but I did not register the zing of its taste. I could find comfort in this apparent return to normalcy. However, I wonder. The stories do not lie: can souls who have eaten chthonic fruit ever allowed a true return to the realms of the sun?

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