Before the storm, we made ourselves ready.
We went to the supermarket, trying not to hurry but frantic that we would be too late. The shelves would be bare and the thought that we would be left with nothing but the scraps of what everyone else had left behind such was unthinkable, and so we drove faster, bravely ignoring the further risks that would come from police attention. When we got there, the race began. My wife and I each took a shopping cart and started at opposite ends of the store. We had no list, we had no plan. We had nothing but our own fervent desperation to be out before the storm came, before it was too late to do anything.
I nearly ran through the store with my cart. I wove through the lazier shoppers, I skidded around corners and nearly knocked over displays. The deli would take too long – processed meats and cheeses would have to do. Canned green beans and peaches, dried pasta and bags of bread, chips and dip and everything that I rationally knew we wouldn’t need but my desperation wouldn’t let me leave without. My cart filled to a dangerous level, and I risked crushing or losing things as I flew.
I took the last can of chicken soup right from the grasp of a little old lady. To the end of my days I will remember the look of impotent rage and sorrow that crossed her face before I sped away, pursued by my own demons of shame and fear.
She would have to fend for herself. The storm was coming.
At home, we rushed from room to room, making sure we knew where everything was. The storm would leave ruin behind, that much we knew, so we hid away everything that might fly and break and crash when it hit. The windows were closed tightly. Everything that could be put away was put into cupboards, boxes, crates. Our television and game systems went into the basement with the computers, the laptops and the stereo. They went into the farthest, safest corner we could find, and then the door was locked and the key put into the freezer. We would definitely remember it there.
My wife was nearly pulling her hair out in frustration that we couldn’t get enough done. The storm was coming.
We did all we could. We looked around our home, the place we made together and called our own and we knew in our hearts that it would not escape unscathed. We knew that it would never be the place of safety and comfort that it had been before. I cried a little. So did my wife. We held each other on the sofa and waited. Every sound from outside seemed like a threat, a warning – a promise of the horrors that would inevitably descend upon us.
There was the sound of a car coming up the driveway. We looked at each other, and I could feel her heart racing as I held her close. The sound of doors and shrieking and yelling, shrill howls and malicious laughter.
The doorbell rang. From the other side, we heard my sister call out. “Joanie? Phil? I’m here! And I brought the kids!”
The storm broke.