Here is Part Two of “The Hurricane”. For Part One, scroll down to view previous posts. It is a short fiction piece about Hurricane Sandy.
David Lichtenberg’s family was without power for a week. His father and mother slept in their cold, dark Connecticut home, dressed in layers of midnight black long underwear, and under two blankets and one thick down comforter. His dog, a golden retriever with a penchant for potato chips, and his cat, who would only drink water out of plotted plants, slept under the kitchen table, without even the familiar hum of the refrigerator to accompany their tumultuous dreams.
David never lost power. The night after Hurricane Sandy, he watched a movie and passed out on the couch with Morgan Freeman’s voice in his ears and half-eaten kernels squashed haphazardly in his lap.
He had done it. Sure, he had missed the job interview for the entry-level position at the Upper East Side law firm, but he didn’t care – he entered the storm during its peak and survived. He no longer needed the comforts and pleasures his family had always provided him; he no longer had to listen to his parents’ unrealistically high expectations at the dinner table or their insistence to work in the family firm; he left behind all that and had faced Sandy like a man.
The storm warnings stayed in effect until the end of the week – four days after David viewed “March of the Penguins” for the very first time. David finished the movie the next morning (along with a few of the remaining kernels), glued to the screen as the male and female penguins journeyed perilously to hatch their chicks, find food, and bring it safely back home. He turned on the TV and listened to the warnings from Mayor Bloomberg, “It is dangerous to go outside and full warnings are still in effect. Sandy has been classified as a ‘superstorm’. Please, for your own safety, stay indoors.”
Once again, David Lichtenberg did no such thing. He left his brightly lit apartment and walked through Park Slope, where few roamed the streets, but the sun glistened on window panes of brownstone homes, families cooked their most comforting meals, watched their favorite TV shows, and surfed the Internet as they pleased. With children home from school, parents spent quality time with their families, and seemed utterly oblivious to the devastation in Red Hook, only four miles away. David was certain that his own family knew nothing of true devastation. Sure, they had lost power, but they weren’t flooded, and even if they were, they had enough money to rebuild their homes. So many in Red Hook had nothing at all.
David wanted to see what Sandy had done with his own glassy blue eyes. While few Brooklynites had left their homes, let alone their borough, David, with the rain jacket with the hood that refused to stay on his head, walked straight to the Brooklyn Bridge, determined to venture through lower Manhattan.
The storm had passed and the violent gales from before had transformed into calming zephyrs that accompanied David through the Brooklyn streets. He snapped a photo with his phone here and there – a plastic bag wrapped around a car tire, scattered branches of a tree laying on Nevins Street, a lone pigeon. As he approached the bridge, he saw three shocked faces looking past him. He turned, and there, along Pineapple Street, was an Audi tt with its windshield shattered and the trunk of a tree sticking out of it like a thumb.
He kept receiving text messages from his mother. “Not much battery left but just checking in…” “We are all OK here and miss you.” “Thanks for the text yday, pls stay in touch.” Couldn’t she understand that he had to be his own man? That he was his own individual and didn’t need his parents anymore? Like the penguins, his parents would do anything for him, but only if he lived a life that they approved of. Besides, there is a time when every chick become a fully grown bird, and its parents fly away.
David closed his phone and let it vibrate in his pocket as he came to the bridge. People walked toward and then past him, computers and cellphone chargers in their backpacks, embarking on a journey to find an electrical outlet and wireless Internet. Others came to Brooklyn for a freshly cooked meal at Tom’s Restaurant or Franny’s Pizzeria, or to simply sit at a coffee shop with a mug of hot tea. Only those without a place to stay would return to Manhattan, trekking back across the bridge to their apartments that never seemed so dark or so cold.
David walked among them. He walked past City Hall, then past Canal Street, and through the streets of Soho. The chaos of New York usually bothered David. The throngs of people rushing past him with their false sense of urgency. Wherever they were going, it wasn’t necessary to sprint to catch the subway or the bus – there would always be another one. David hated Soho most of all, with its hordes of shoppers. Whenever he was in the neighborhood, he always avoided Broadway, which made him feel agoraphobic.
On that day, there wasn’t a soul on the streets of Soho.
Houston Street was void of honking horns and working traffic lights; the restaurants of Bleecker Street were empty. Two bikers munched on falafel outside of Mamoun’s and people sat by candlelight with lagers and ales at Blind Tiger. “We have batteries” read a sign on an open deli on West 4th Street.
All these sights did not affect David as much as the sounds. Never before had he realized the comfort he had from the whirring of taxis, flying through Manhattan to their intended destinations like bees buzzing through a garden from flower to flower, the hums of heaters, the laughter or crying of a child, the desperate wailing and wild shouts of the homeless, the strumming of a guitar from a street musician, the languages, the grumbles, the jokes, the threats, the thunder of the subway below, and the whispering of rats.
It was the eerie silence that hit David like nothing before. As he stood on the corner of Bleecker and Macdougal, where Bob Dylan and Joan Baez played for the first time, the white sky was turning grayer, and David forgot about his job interviews, his quest for adventure, his yearning for independence, his inability to write – for things were so much greater than him.
Before the sun set, prior to the cold creeping its way through the walls of lower Manhattan apartments, David returned to Brooklyn. He packed up his bag with a weeks worth of clothes and Tom’s Natural, his favorite brand of toothpaste. He locked the door of his new apartment with one key and turned on his car with another. David was going home.