My mom was unceremoniously informed that another hurricane was coming, perhaps even larger than last year's. "It's bad that it will be the full moon. Tides are already high then," said our neighbor. He was a fireman, and he wasn't playing around. The man stocked up on water and candles. He also wisely relocated his car to the mainland. "There might be no water for a week," he mused. I had known that another tropical storm was approaching from school. Everyone couldn't wait for education closure on Tuesday. Sandy had been a gentle reminder on the news, but my mother had assumed that it was solely Florida's problem. I, however, had forebodings about this.
I spent all that Sunday before the storm working on my Global History project, and scratched colored pencils onto poster paper. The left side exploded with tans, oranges and reds, the official color theme of Ancient Mesopotamia. I'd often run to the balcony window to gaze out at the resentful ocean, its usual powerful waves morphing into mountains of choppy white foam pummeling the boulder jetties. I was mutinous about its incoming arrival so I mocked the force of nature in my head, which I regretted later. To underestimate something that colossal is dangerous.
I hurried back to my project, letting the right side (which represented Egypt) dance with violets, regal indigoes and bright greens. I decided upon this color scheme since purple is often associated with royalty. As I sketched the notable statue bust of Nefertiti, I listened to the mayor speak in a melancholy manner about "storm surge", and utter warnings quite frequently to evacuate Zone A as soon as possible. The last subway leaves at seven pm, while the last bus rides off at nine.
I had evacuated last year during Irene, but it had been a stressful stay with friends in Brooklyn. We were agonized with questions of what was happening on back home. We weren’t doing that again, I must admit. I wasn't particularly worried that we might die, since our apartment complex was built to withstand hurricanes. Proof of this: 168 families could nest snugly into one of the sturdy large buildings during one of the gales which batter our skinny peninsula often. It was the other houses that I was worried about. They were constructed of toothpicks.
As I waited for my mom to return I regularly inspected the window, contemplating what parts of my life would be terminated as they took their final stand against the turbulent Atlantic Ocean: the flagpole that had endured so many winds over the time that I have lived here, the flowers which greet our residents, my beloved pines. I gave a sigh. As soon as I glued seagull feathers onto the finished poster I drew, talked to my mom about the hurricane, and went early to bed. There was going to be no school tomorrow, anyway.
Night fell, but I still couldn't sleep. A wind howled through the neighborhood, but it wasn't any more special than usual. That Monday morning, however, brought several changes: that giddy excitement over having an absence of school, and of course, the dread that Sandy was to make landfall at eight pm tonight. Harsh wolf howls spun through the corridor between our long apartment building and the next, and rain needles shot towards the ocean. The sky was a dismal gray, since this was a storm from the tropics and not a furious and crackling thunderstorm.
Around four o'clock an eight-year-old girl's mother called. This girl was Isabel, who has golden hair and bright blue eyes. She would be considered pretty if she wasn't so obnoxious. I was to go and play with her since she was experiencing a dull day, as usual. This would have been strange if Isabel wasn't the younger sister of Ivana, whom I had known for nine years. In a way I was glad. I have people to spend the hurricane with; I wouldn't be so alone.
Ivana is my oldest enemy, though we sometimes pretend that we are friends. On the other occasions we are bitter rivals, through no fault but hers. Ivana has somehow managed to make every member of her vast social clan hate her at least once. Tonight was therefore a surprise: she is a companion again. I told her comfortably how a group of pigeons were trying to desperately to escape the peninsula, flying foolishly in circles. They nearly all crashed into our building.
Even Isabel was pleasant that night. Their mother (who ironically has dark hair) glowed with welcome. However, this may very well have been because I have to entertain her picky daughter half the time. She sees nothing wrong with the fact I am the same age as the older daughter. Isabel decides upon beading. She cuts us two pieces of magenta yarn, and I struggle to get her wooden beads through the unwilling fibers. There are so many colors which I want to use, all too small to fit: peach, plum, green, gold, chestnut...
We consistently scrambled to Ivana's room, which has a window overlooking the shore. On one such occasion, we heard a massive crash. One of the construction board-works had fell onto a van. "Great. Now it has no windows," Ivana groaned. Their unintelligent British Labrador slept luxuriously on the bed, with not a care in the world. Outside, as the weather conditions continued to deteriorate and winds reached a reported 90 miles per hour, people practiced for the Sunday’s marathon. One of them lightly jogged by the heap of fallen construction boards when it flew up in the air. He or she wisely ran away. "Idiots," Ivana muttered. "Go kill yourselves." There were even more such bright individuals who strolled on the boardwalk, and even sat on benches watching the ruthless ocean wash in. Suddenly, one of the construction pieces spun 50 feet in the air and nearly hit one of the geniuses on the head.
I returned to my beading, and nearly got all the peach beads on. There soon came another shout from Ivana. "Come look!" We threw everything on the carpeted floor and ran to her, who was behind her computer flicking through Facebook photos. "Look," she breathed. My stomach dropped. Many of the places I had known since the age of six were completely submerged. Their cat meowed, who was anxious as her world tore apart, emitting strange yet loud death cries. Her beautiful tabby flanks heaved as she circled us, flinching at the noises outside.
I was almost finished with my bracelet when the ocean spilled over the boardwalk. It felt disturbing to witness black foaming seawater roll over the park, the only thing blocking its way of complete conquest. The damaged car filled up with the water as the ocean crashed over the streets. I returned to tie my bracelet, glancing out at the balcony window, only to gasp. Shiny black waves rushed past our building, changing the parking lot into a raging river, dragging all the cars. A force that could move cars... We all felt stunned and terrified. At that moment, all the street lights went out, plunging the nightmare into utter darkness. “Get away from the window!" Isabel's mom commanded as a plastic container crashed into it. It flopped around like an angry eagle but thankfully caused no fractures.
"Your mom could come over too, you know," Ivana informed me. "We can all sleep over." I thought this proposal over, surprised at this sunny side in a dark night. I agreed. Her mom was calling mine when the electricity went out and the phone call was cut off.
I let out a groan. Their mother put on a head flashlight, the kind one sees used only by cave explorers with a smile. "See, it's not so bad," she grinned.
There came a knock on the door: my mom, carrying a toy flashlight, the only thing she could find. I was grateful to have her back. We settled down in the living room and Isabel's mother lit two tall scarlet candles, and we talked deep into the night. I touch my mother's hand, trying to find her in the dark. Isabel and I shared the blow-up mattress, since her grandma had gone to her room to sleep. Outside, there were wild thuds and the brute might of the hideous wind, which sounded like five individual airplanes going off. It was very difficult to fall asleep with the traumatic chaos in my ears.
Ivana received a phone call from Rebeca, who, "is practically crying because she's alone." Her parents were caught at their work in a senior center, and wouldn't return home soon.
"Can I get her?" Ivana pleaded.
"Fine, but be careful!" her mother nervously answered.
Ten minutes later, Rebeca returned with her frightened curly white dog, which promptly scampered over to Ivana's British Labrador. Together we spent that night of Hurricane Sandy. Even when I discovered the destruction that occurred the next day, I was more prepared, thanks to people who seemed more human that night. Later on, I would experience a lack of electricity just like the Ancient Egyptians of Mesopotamians, as well as the winter cold and isolation from the outside world.
I kept that bracelet from the storm as a souvenir. Every time I glanced over I would be quickly reminded of candlelight, wind and water. In the weeks that would follow, I continued to witness friendship in the most unlikely of situations. Dark times bring the real essence out of everyone.“During times like this we truly know what people are like,” my mother would say, commenting on the jealousy that would emerge out of people we knew personally. When we must deal with the worst scenario, we let our guard down and let others carelessly see who we really are.