Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dry raincoat

(partly fiction)

The storm will strip away the last leaves. Throw them high in the air along with the plastic bags and cigarette butts and flatten them on the pavement. They were going to fall in the next few days anyway, and there’s nothing wrong with change coming a little sooner than expected. Like when you’re thinking of breaking up with someone and then find out they’re cheating on you, or moving across the country. You get a clean, fresh start, none of this gradual messy business, holding on to your milk past its expiration date, smelling it every now and then to see if it’s gone sour and then getting too scared to even open it so when you finally work up the courage you find that it’s curdled to the point where you can’t pour it down the drain, you have to throw the whole thing out, recycling be damned.

That’s what it was like with Mona. Recycling be damned. I always wondered what would’ve happened if we hadn’t waited for those final leaves to fall, if we’d cut things off before that point, if we’d left each other still able to imagine the green buds of spring, still able to locate the nubs on the branches where they would, could, appear. But instead we watched as we ground ourselves into the drenched pavement, as we stepped on ourselves, as we became the bare trees, haunted, unable to remember what it had been like before, in the good times.

A couple of hours until the subway and buses shut down, until each of us retreats into an apartment building full of people we have never had cause to address except to ask permission to scoot around each other in the laundry room. The mayor has declared the city comatose until further notice, aware that a body can’t function without proper circulation. With the exception, of course, of the emergency workers, those who pump blood slowly, slowly, who make the lungs swell and contract just enough to keep oxygen traveling to our communal brain. Emergency workers will go to work. Who knows who keeps their blood flowing.

I want to bend my head against the wind as I head down the street for my last essentials, to huddle my arms against my chest with my scarf flying out behind me and leaves skittering past, but the storm isn’t here yet, and the wind will probably blow in the other direction, leaving my hair and scarf to tangle unromantically in front of my face. So I walk with a straight back and a brisk step in my dry raincoat to purchase cans of peas and carrots at the grocery as well as some toiletries at the convenience store next door. Only back in the elevator do I realize I forgot to get tampons. Hopefully my uterus, in solidarity with the city, will decide to postpone my period’s start date until schools and libraries reopen. Although it’s more likely that it will get carried away by all of the reports of flooding.

Back in the apartment, my roommate and I stand on opposite sides of the kitchen island, hands on hips, mentally shaking our heads at the odd assortment of non-perishables and other counter-safe foodstuffs we have collected in our multiple shopping trips. Five oranges. Twelve donuts. Couscous. Prunes. Tomato sauce. We’re so clearly in our early twenties, so clearly unused to being the ones responsible for emergency preparation. We celebrate our last night of certain electricity by running the dishwasher and eating brie cheese and crackers. I revel in the ridiculousness while missing the power outages of my Baltimore childhood, with dogs crawling into my bed at night and seemingly endless cribbage games. Four thick candles stand sentry on the marble countertop, waiting to burn in the darkness.

Jay plays the vibraphone and I dick around on my computer as we wait for the storm to hit. The night progresses and I go out to the balcony every hour or so, stand by the railing and put my hand palm up over the edge, find the rain has not yet reached us, although the sky to our right, the western sky, bears some green among the clouds. The wind blows without howling. Maybe I’ll come spin around out here in a day or two, safe in my fourteen-story concrete birdhouse in the midst of God’s fury. I’ll dance a dance of exuberance, of giddiness, of cabin fever, of rain exhaustion, hyped up on donuts and prunes and tomato sauce. For now, though, I retreat each time from the limp breeze and dark sky, settling back onto the futon, drinking cup after cup of chamomile tea until my yawns and my roommate’s retreat into his bedroom convince me to shut down Facebook and go to sleep.

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