Wednesday, November 7, 2012


October 30th, 2012,
Washington, D.C..

You look long and hard at the clear liquid. The same stuff you’ve been drinking out of a cup all day, the same stuff most of your body is composed of, is ravaging the world outside. 

Others have it worse. Major flooding, power outages, contorted trees, darkness, loneliness, desperation—all the while the furious intruder of a storm banging to come inside. You feel some of these poundings, even if they resemble more sporadic but firm knocks. The bursts last for seconds and then subside, like labor pains. When they come, you feel vulnerable. You understand just how little you are and how helpless you can be when you can’t even step outside of your building—even to face that liquid you’ve stored and have been drinking all day.

There are false moments of calm. Moments of silence that invite you to believe it’s over. Just when you’ve gotten comfortable with the idea, the gusts return, pushing you back into alertness. You drowse for seconds, head slowly lolling, until it falls forward and you whip it back up—like a kid in a lecture. One such moment happens. And you wonder very seriously if this would be the one: this would make the tree closest to your room come lurching at your bedroom wall, begging to be let in. You don’t dare go to the window right now. You wait instead for another lull to lift the blinds and peer at the world outside, because let's face it, you’re still curious and wide-eyed and immature.
You start questioning trees. You judge them. Who will snap first? Who will let a branch or two go? Who will lean towards you? Who will let their arms fly and dance? You know the leaves don’t stand a chance. You mourn their disownment. You wonder about the squirrels. Then you go back to scrutinizing.

You hear ambulances. The only other unifying sound against the wind. The only sound seemingly unafraid to take the storm head on. The noise is firm and urgent and melancholy. You wonder about the women and men who work at the fire station down the street, the ones responsible for emitting the forlorn but most appropriate sound you can think of for this weather. You wonder about the women and men they are responding to whom you’ll never know. You think of the other parts of the coast. The ones that have it way worse than you do. You say a prayer for them.

You live in a big old house with the other volunteers. One that you feel surprisingly safe in. It’s aged, it’s sturdy, it’s lived through things like this before…maybe. And with so many rooms and so many floors, you have a lot to wrap yourself up in—many layers with which to keep safe and warm and isolated. 

Over the movie you can barely hear the bullying outside. Deep within the heart of the house, far from windows and reading a book, you can barely hear the whipping. You can pretend it’s another Sunday. And you’re reading and feeling cozy and lazy because you can be. Looking out the window will be like admitting Monday approaches—it will mean facing a reality—that this isn’t just another weekend and people are dying and scared and damage is being done. And you’re far from home. And although you know you can take it, you’re not sure how to convince your family that you can. You don’t know if you should even try.
You know everything will be alright. Soon the sun will poke out consolingly, brighter and more brilliant than before. And you’ll say you did it. You survived—even if it was in sweatpants and glasses, even if it meant watching movies and reading. You survived. You were reminded of your place in this world: a precarious one. One that you’ve always been in but that’s often left forgotten or unattended—hidden underneath the lure of success or gossip or materialism. Hidden underneath your own wants, dreams or ambitions.

You don’t deny that others had it much worse, that others are still suffering and that suffering will always be a part of this life. But today, right now, you’ve survived. And for the first time since Sandy hit, you can hear a bird chirping. And it’s the most beautiful sound you’ve heard in two days.

There is always hope.