This time they yell and knock on the window. I glide over the floor in my mismatched slipper socks, the ones with the padded footing. They are on the wrong way, one inside out and one is falling off the foot a little so it looks like an elf’s slipper but I am going for it. Today I will answer the door. Today I will look someone in the eye. Today I will say exactly what I need. Throwing the door open, I have rehearsed all yesterday,
“Thank God! I am almost out of food.”
It is two police officers and I immediately regret not just my choice of words, but my choice of outfit, location, occupation, history and opening the door.
They are two men, white, with light hair both of them. The one with blue eyes looks me up and down, gauging age no doubt. I appear, I begin guessing, to be about 26 in their eyes; a child worth protecting.
“We are visiting each house to check in on your supplies and to let you know about the enforced curfew going forward.”
The shorter one with light brown eyes cuts in. He stares mostly at my mouth.
“We will be patrolling the areas starting at 11 pm to ensure everyone is where they need to be.’
“Where do we need to be?” I smile
Don’t be so coy. I stop myself. Ask them for batteries, potable water. Don’t chirp too much. Don’t invite them in. Don’t show them your beans or ID or any safes hidden in a closet. Do nothing but stand there, polite, remember your southern upbringing. They are busy. There is no need to invite them inside.The short one laughs a little, lowers his head. I did not realize it was drizzling. The air is cool and shocks me. Their caps are brimmed with droplets. I see their breath with each word. I need heat.
“It’s just a precaution, ma’am…”
“Samantha,” I lean forward extending my hand.
His hands are ice.
“You can call me Sam.”
I smile with every tooth and nod enthusiastically as he explains that they will have cars patrolling areas like shopping centers and parks and other places of congregation just to keep everyone safe.
“Philly has a lot of streets to work.”
“We aren’t worried about these side streets,” blue eyes says. “We are just letting everyone know and checking in. We have a jug of water and some batteries to offer. Do you need a flashlight?”
“Yes. Do you have anything else?”
“First aid items: band aids, gauze, gloves.”
“I’ll take the care package. Thank you.”
Blue eyes is back to the squad car parked a couple houses down. Brown eyes is fixated on my mouth. I have crossed my ankles to try to hide my socks.
“A lot of these houses are abandoned?”
He waves his hand in the air signaling to the rest of the block. I am debating something and trying to maintain his eye contact without break at the same time.
“Yes… They can’t sell them so a bunch of these houses are empty.”
“Do you have friends around here? Checking in?”
“Of course,” I beam.
I am ingratiating.
“Do you live alone?”
“No, my partner is here. He went to check on his mother.”
He nodded dutifully as his partner strode up.
“Ok, two jugs of water, one flashlight, two packs of batteries and a first aid kit. We’ll try to come by again to check in.”
“Of course, I’m really all set.”
“Didn’t you say you were out of food?”
Brown eyes narrowed.
“Oh,” I turned to look behind me, knowing I need to stop the water or return to it.
“I thought you were my boyfriend. I was playing a joke. You know the hero returns,” I throw my hands up to show them the helpless mistress. “I’m honestly fine.”
They tip their hats at me and I am freezing.
“When will the power be back on?”
“Not long now. It was a short circuit. Should be on in a couple of days.”
“A short circuit? The whole town or…”
Good, pretend, be nice, smile, look like a doe.
But I interrupted, “Before my phone went dead, I swear I read it was up and down the coast. Are you going to every neighborhood?”
They looked at me and I looked at them. My cheeks were pallid. I didn’t want to be at this door.
“Yes,” tall blue eyes finally said. “We are going to every neighborhood.”
Doubtful, I nodded and began to shut the door.
“Do you need to charge your phone?”
I am debating something and trying to maintain his eye contact without break at the same time.