The government has decided schools will open. Even with a hurricane warning given. A disastrous move, they will backtrack that order in a few hours, sending frenzied parents into searching for their offspring. Schools will let students out after lunch, roughly 11:00 a.m.
By 9:00 a.m. power goes out. The children cheer. The last real hurricane to hit us was Georges, which they don’t remember. But we adults do. A month of going without.
During my own lunch break I go to the closest supermarket and buy what I forgot to pick up on Sunday. More juice boxes and canned food. Prince is blaring away on the speakers about purple bananas and dying. There is something so gloriously ridiculous in stocking up to this song, I wish I had a raspberry beret on.
I am in an out in fifteen minutes. Then I go back to school and start helping the teachers who have skipped lunch. Some teachers get text messages from family members. The traffic is crazy, they say. Traffic lights are dangling in the breeze, not working. Police, where’s the police?
We have hundreds of kids calling their parents. Parents stuck in traffic talking with the teachers with their last cell phone bars. Half an hour trips turn into two-hours of escalating hysterics. Parents M.I.A. No one else available to collect their kids.
My last student is picked up around 2:30 p.m. We can go home now. To our own kids. To prepare ourselves. Earl is coming closer than expected. The janitor locks up and we all drive home.
I miss the dreadful gridlocks because I live very close to the school. I am in the door, get the ironing board and iron out and start working on a bunch of clothes that need to be pressed. I need at least a week of wrinkled free clothing for my family. I run out of luck in thirty minutes. The power goes out in my neighborhood.
And just like that, I am listening to the radio with as much technology around me as if were in the 1940s. My eyes wander to the windows. It’s not even raining yet. What the hell happened with the power? I close my eyes and help concoct the news images in my mind.
(my kids are making the most incredible racket)
I am tired, sleepy. The radio news almost lulls me to sleep.
I remember odd details. The memory of a past governor who believed himself a meteorologist and used to give the weather report makes me laugh out loud, so many years after the fact.
(my youngest daughter settles on my lap, asks me why I don’t light a candle and put it in the microwave, making it work)
I cook by candlelight.
My husband jokes about it, the so called romance of it. But the flame speaks of time in my ear, candles take me back centuries in my psyche, the dressings and utensils I use might be different, but I am without power---and if I turn off the battery operated radio---I could pretend it’s the middle ages.
Gusts of wind will come and go, as they should, until the early hours of the morning. Then the rain should begin in earnest.
Or so they say.
Cat 4. I’ve never seen such a thing. We have been so lucky.
There are things I am looking forward to, if power still does not arrive. A starry sky. A smaller utility bill.
And strangely enough, I enjoy writing by candlelight. Black ink in my spidery handwriting. It does not look the same under a glaring light bulb. And somehow, when reading, the flickering light turns the pecan colored page alive. I find words forgotten written on another power failure.
I am reading Inkheart. But do not fear, I do not read out loud. A lone ant winds quickly around my candles and stops, its front limbs--hands, antennae?---maniacally wringing them out. As if considering a path a purpose a decision and scampering off, leaving me none the wiser about what goes on in its mind.
(while candlelight slows me down, it stirs my children into a frenzy)
Hugo was to me the ultimate hurricane. The wind sounding like a prowling beast searching for prey. A demon, a killer. That sound I had never heard before, and hope to never again.
It is best to turn in early. There’s a certain boredom in waiting for a hurricane that might not come. When one truly hits, there’s no sleep to be had.
Still no power. And that worries me. Because if this is not a preemptive strike if you will, then it really means the infrastructure of the island is absurdly frail.
On the radio, the government gets more flack for their lack of provisions regarding that chaos.
Darkness was spent in nightmares, horrible ones regarding embracing stories that it might not do to give birth to. My hand still hovers over a file and whether to hit the delete button. When you stare at the abyss it also stares back at you, Nietzsche says.
Hurricanes are times of feast. All meat has to be cooked immediately. You eat until you can’t anymore. Then you survive a month on canned sausages and soda crackers and room temperature juice.
I’ve cooked loads of chicken, churrasco, mounds of shrimp rice. Funnily enough, I manage to pass with flying colors. It only takes mayhem for me to cook well.
Power doesn’t come back until the evening. My children shout with glee, and run to turn the T.V. on. I am strangely saddened by this, though I know it makes no sense.
I turn on my laptop and read your comments again. And some new ones I had missed when I couldn’t access the web anymore. I want to answer all of them so badly. But I am so tired I simply go to bed.
Tomorrow I will worry about Fiona, and Gaston, and whichever is next in line.
It will be the strangest of Septembers.
At least, the words have returned.
© Vanessa Seijo 2010