Saturday, two days before the storm, I got hit with a flu fever and took the night off of work and stayed in for two days. So by Monday night, when the storm hit, I was already getting antsy with cabin fever. Drew went to Whole Foods and stocked up on supplies, including stopping by Two Boots for "emergency pizza". We ate a ton of food and settled in to watch scary movies all night. It seemed like a pretty mild storm, and then all of a sudden it wasn't. Things flickered; I turned the computer off. What sounded like gunshots went off, then BOOM, a loud crack. And then blackness and the sound of everything whirring to a halt.
We immediately started bickering:
ME: Oh my God. Is this really happening?
DREW: Hand me the matches.
ME: I only have a half charge on my phone!
DREW: Can you hand me the matches, please? I told you to charge your phone up.
ME: I did! But now I only have half!
DREW: Because you played that stupid game for the last hour, and now you have a half charge on your phone, and you're already freaking out. Is this all the candles?
ME: Well my little cove was getting overrun by pirates. How was I supposed to know?
DREW: Um, the NEWS. And because I TOLD YOU.
ME: Ugh! I know! But you go on and on and on. It's boring!
DREW: Well, maybe you should pay attention, Mary, and then you wouldn't be shrieking at me right now.
ME (shrieking): I'm not shrieking! This sucks! Stop stepping on the dog!
DREW: I'm trying to get the candles lit!
That was Day 1. The silence and oppressive blackness was palpable. It carried a heavy, threatening energy, and the lone sound of constant sirens only heightened the feelings of dread and isolation. My phone ran out of power almost immediately from text attempts, which drained power extremely quickly because of towers being out. We read for a little while in bed, by candle and flashlight, and tried to sleep.
In the morning Drew wanted to check things out and get more supplies.
ME: Why do you have your shoes and coat on already?
DREW: Because it's time to go.
ME: I'm not even dressed yet. Stop rushing me. You're always rushing me.
DREW: Stop fucking around, I told you we have to get out early before things get too crazy.
ME: All right! Sit down then so you're not walking your bum pee shoes around all over the floor.
DREW: Put on your pants!
On the topic of clean floors: my first thought, after the phone charge situation, was "How am I going to vacuum?" On the surface this seems neurotic, which it is, but I have four animals in my apartment, so in some ways it's a reasonable fear. And although you would never know it by looking at my apartment, in times of crisis I feel an overwhelming urge to clean, something about gaining control in uncontrollable situations.
Outside it was cold and desolate, so quiet and grey, rain drizzling. Most bodegas were open, with one man standing in front, another at the register, and another with a flashlight to help you find items. We bought batteries and spaghetti with exact change and went home. The apartment was freezing. Drew went out again later in the afternoon while I drank tea (gas stove still worked) and read the second book of the Game of Thrones series. He came back and reported that people were getting crazy and the bodega owners were being harassed a bit. I felt sad for them and for all the business owners losing so much money. Meanwhile in my book horses were screaming in agony from war wounds, donkeys burning in fires, children being ripped from the arms of their mothers and murdered, constant rape, cats shot with arrows and eaten. And the dark day dragged on.
By evening we were insane with boredom and the oppressive energy, silence mixed with sirens, lack of light and color, and unrelenting cold. We cracked open a bottle of Jamison that had been sitting around for a year and Drew got wasted, listening to music on our battery powered Ipod dock and rambling about Leon Russell and the Stones while I ignored him and kept reading about war and suffering and madness. He passed out and I lay in the dark, grateful for his presence next to me but feeling the weight of the world coming down. I couldn't stop thinking about all of the suffering of children and animals out there at that very moment. How can we live with it? What can we do? It's just too much. It closed in on me, I felt I couldn't bear it. I got up to flashlight to the bathroom and realized I'd left food on the counter, shrimp that we'd had to cook before it went bad. I opened the freezer to put it away, and I stood for a moment watching reddish liquid drip from packages down the freezer door.
I went back to bed and freaked about the liquid. I felt as if it were dripping all around me. I couldn't clean it until morning and that felt impossible. Something had to be done immediately. I couldn't vacuum. I had no power on my phone. Animals and children were being abused at that very minute, all over the world. thousands of them, millions suffering. People were drowning in their houses, people losing their houses, people alone. We couldn't leave, we were trapped on the fifth floor in utter darkness and the filth of decaying food. Drew snored softly next to me and I opened my mouth and stared into blackness and let out a silent scream. Just an "ooooooohhh" of breath and complete madness, eyes wide, hands pulling my hair back in desperation.
Oh, hello panic attack. We meet again. I remembered I had a couple xanax leftover from a birthday gift last year and scrambled through the drawer, holding the flashlight in my mouth. I found them and took one, studiously ignoring the refrigerator while getting a glass of water. As I laid back down and waited for it to take effect, I realized some things:
1.. Drew is absolutely right, I am batshit crazy.
2. There is an addiction to electronics in place that I never knew existed, and the pain of cold turkey withdrawal was hitting me hard.
And 3 (saddest of all): Contrary to long-held personal opinion, I would be absolute shite in a zombie apocalypse and anyone with half a brain would quickly know to shoot me in the knee to leave behind for bait.
That was Day 2.
On Wednesday (Halloween!) we decided to walk uptown to find somewhere to charge our phones and get some news and of course, more batteries. Drew also had to get payment for a speeding ticket (received from a most humorless cop when driving across the Midwest) into the mail by a certain date, so he wanted to find an open post office. We walked from 3rd Street and Avenue B to 34th Street and 8th Avenue; all stoplights were out so navigating crossing the street took concentration for both drivers and pedestrians. It felt good to move, but it was still cold and I felt shaky from the night before. Once we hit the areas with power, above 34th Street it was a whole new world full of happy shoppers and cars who didn't have to puzzle out when to stop and when to go.
The post office was inoperable but the doors unlocked for self-service machines, and I spotted an outlet. I plugged my phone in, so happy to be out of the grey wind and near electricity for a moment. A lone security guard approached me and told me I could not use the outlet.
I sputtered. "It's a citywide emergency!! We don't have power! This is a federal building!! Are you kidding me?? That is so incredibly mean it can't be possible!"
It was possible and I was forced to unplug my phone. I continued to winge and fume over my shoulder as Drew led me out of the building by the arm. We walked on while I squeaked at the outrage and cruelty of it all, back on the verge of hysteria. Drew pulled me over in front of HK, a restaurant, and said,
"You need to calm down and not turn this into a martyr mission. Why don't we go in here and have a drink and some food? I'll buy you whatever you want."
I know, he's awesome. And thus, we opened the doors into heaven. Overtly gay waiters dressed in crisp black swanned across a white, sunlit room carrying trays of colorful, artfully arranged salads and glasses of delicious looking liquid concoctions.
We sat down and ordered two martinis from our adorable waiter, whose name was, I kid you not, Joe McCutie. He graciously took my phone and charger to plug into a power source while we decompressed with our drinks, and then ordered and ate perfectly prepared calamari and overpriced salads while basking in the warm glow of television sets, heat, a spotless bar stocked with pristine bottles of every shape and size, everything so clean and warm and nice. So nice. So very nice. We ordered chocolate martinis for dessert and Joe McCutie brought us a round of shots of something sweet and strong to toast our temporary freedom from oppression.
We left (sadly, so sadly), found an open post office (where people sat on the floor around outlets, charging their phones unfettered) then turned around to walk the miles back home before things got too and scary. We stopped at BB on Avenue B to say hi to friends huddled in the candlelight, but didn't dare stay for too long. Once home, footsore and weary, my flashlight died. I veered on the edge of a freakout but let it go. Tomorrow was another day. I took another xanax and passed out, shivering, under the covers.
That was Day 3.
By Day 4 I was ready to put some effort into not being such a giant baby. Drew had to walk over the bridge to Brooklyn to rehearse with his band, so he took my phone to charge it at the studio. Between the inability to get texts or calls through and the speed of battery usage with the attempts it was unusable anyway, so it didn't seem to matter that much anymore. I felt glad that Drew could get a few hours away from his high-pitched girlfriend.
I strapped on a mat and walked to Yoga to the People, who were still, God bless them, conducting classes by candlelight. The beauty and invitation of the entrance almost made me cry, colored candles staggered on either side of the hallway leading up the stairs to studio. Everyone (all seven of us) talked in whispers and I made it through the class without openly weeping or causing a scene. It felt nice to heat up my body and at least work toward a meditative state.
After class I hiked back uptown to find a flashlight. I walked from 1 pm to 5 pm, stopping in store after store, but there were none to be had. I took a break to eat a cheeseburger at the Stage Deli, feeling that the current state of things gave me permission to eat meat. I sat happily by myself, munching warm french fries and drinking delicious hot coffee, watching the carnage on a television overhead. It dawned, as it always does, that I am a lucky, lucky person, and that we had gotten the least of it.
I ran into a friend on my way home and he gave me his extra flashlight. I hugged him and got back into our scary building right before it got dark, lighting my way up the five flights and praying for no lurkers. Once in the apartment the flashlight bulb zapped right away. I sat in the candlelight and sniffled a little and considered letting it snowball into a full tantrum just to have something to do, but that seemed too self-indulgent even for me. When Drew got home he poured us two faux martinis of vodka and olive juice, and we sat getting pleasantly loaded while listening to music. He figured out the secret mag light extra bulb stash in the bottom of the flashlight, so that crisis was solved. My dog laid on my chest, so happy with the undivided attention, and although we were cold, and drinking to have something to do, and my legs were fuzzy and hair a flat mess from lack of hot shower, and I missed my friends and I was sick of carbs from the cupboard, I was safe, not homeless, and loved. And I was finally, weirdly, at peace with the electronics withdrawal and felt content to sit still.
So yeah. Hurricanes suck, but it could have been worse, and I got the lesson. I will work towards being more still in my life and thoughts. I hope this blog finds you happy, healthy, warm, loved, and in an intact home.