12 August 2004


I always know when a hurricane is coming. I don’t watch the news, but at the supermarket, the aisles are purged of bottled water and canned tuna. That’s how you know what the weather man has been predicting. You start to think about pets and photographs and the other things you wouldn’t want to lose. You think about whether you have candles at home and an axe in the attic just in case. Panic flutters up and you know it is stupid and nothing will happen, but sometimes it does and how do you know?

The first day the heat is so oppressive you think you might pass out. You can taste the air. You can reach up and touch it, heavy on your shoulders. You walk one block and the back of your shirt clings to you, soaked with sweat and your hair is damp. You wonder about construction workers and gardeners and how they must hate it.

The next day feels like springtime. You can almost see the air spiraling in circles, lifting your hair, the wind rushing through the treetops, rattling the leaves down the street mingling with trash, litter that can no longer lie still on the ground. You think about how it must be to live somewhere other than New Orleans in the summer, Maine or Canada or somewhere you imagine stays cold year-round.

And that night you wake up to thunder and heat again, and rain like it will never stop. And you light candles, you open windows, you sleep without pajamas, you enjoy the silence and the electricity in the air and you watch the rain, water rising in the street and you imagine that boats are rising in the backyards.

You step barefoot in the puddles. You smell the hurricane air. You wonder how they lived without electricity for so many years and wonder if it wasn’t better that way. You take a candle-lit bath in cold water. You heat a can of soup on the stove because you don’t want to open the refridgerator and let the last freezing breaths out. You wonder how long it will last. You pick up the phone to see if it is still working.

And you secretly like these little breaks from real life, these hurricanes. And you wonder when the next one will come.

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