Right before it hit, I was at my most lucid.I had begun guessing with a 98.5% accuracy. I knew I was off about a couple of things but I felt secure in what I did know:
1.The bugs that had descended the trees had all frozen so I didn’t have to worry about killing them.
2. The power was out on almost every block.
3. I use intimidation as a tactic to seize opportunity.
I was in the center of Spruce looking down at my boots, looking up every few steps, looking down at my hand, ungloved and veiny and white turning whiter. I didn’t want to wear the gloves because it threw off my tactile center. In crisis, touch is soothing. I was gripping a plastic straw and sharp. Center city appeared abandoned but I knew better. Some people had kerosene. Some people had pantries full of things. Some people had money to get off the coast. I should be with my family. I should be in an oven. I should be dead but here I am, mid January, twenty three degrees and dropping.
My hood was up so my periphery was challenged but I could still feel things. I can always tell when I am being flanked. I am a woman of course. My entire life has been mastering the art of aloof and dodge. Without electricity, there was nothing to distract me. It was about six forty five pm and the only reason I was out is because I was out of cat food and most dry food. The water worked and gas still workedbut the electricity was out. It didn’t feel like crisis. It was alienating to have no phone service but I could boil water. I had eaten all the food from the fridge and was working my way through the dried goods. I didn’t have a lot to begin with. All the stores had been looted. I felt foolish not taking this more seriously. I should have known. What was more concerning is that I was being followed.
In front of me, there was a house with candles in the window. A part of me knew the risk
I was about to take. Not so much that I was going to knock, but that I was going to assume it was unlocked and walk right in. I was being followed. I didn’t need to turn around to know that and I didn’t want them to know I was not near home. Calmly, I walked to the steps. Calmly, upwards. Calmly, turned the knob. Calmly, stepped inside and stated before anyone could stop me,
“I am sorry for the intrusion, I am being followed, I am almost out of food,” I held my right hand up and closed the knob with the left, dropping the straw so I can put it up. “I have no weapon or means to harm you.”
I put both of my hands up and lifted my face up so he could see my face: wan, confused, chapped. The straw laid on the ground and he looked at it.
“What is that?” he pointed to the straw.
“A straw I play with when I am scared.”
We eyed each other like that in his foyer. I made myself smaller in his presence. Where I may have stood 5” 8’ to someone else, I stood 5” 5’ and shrinking. Where I may have held my chin up at someone else, I lowered my head. Where I may have begun to pick the straw back up in a time of more comfort, I bowed and stayed there.
“Are you alone?”
“Where is your family?”
“My parents are dead.”
I looked up.
“I don’t have many and if they had intended to check on me, the storm made it harder. I just moved here.”
“I don’t have much,” he said.
“Sir, with all due respect, I can tell you have more than me.”
I did not budge.