Saturday after Sandy: streetlights flicker, then shine. Traffic lights burst into jewel-toned life. The tip of Manhattan lights up like a million fireflies. We existed in darkness; we survived. Not long enough to grow new eyes or devolve to deficating in the streets, but long enough for this surge of electricity to feel strange, like waking from a stark & uncomfortable slumber.
In the darkness, I walked between the rooms of my apartment, ambling from golden plumes of candle flame to pools of eerie blue LED light. I fought compulsions to flick the switch and flood the countless gray shadows with golden incandescence. How long, I wondered, does it take for these compulsions to wane?
The environmentalist in me quietly celebrated: surely the most efficient way to conserve energy is to cast huge swaths of cities into days-long darkness. When we lose, we also gain: understanding, compassion. But perhaps we don’t–perhaps the narrow urgency of our life obstacles tunnels our vision into the tangible, perceptible present. I walk a family friend’s dog. Their building has its own generator–one of the very few. I let myself into their apartment mid-day: it’s illuminated by daylight. The dog is curled up on its pillows, sleeping–the kitchen light, burning bright. How can some of us squander what others so sorely lack? What plagues us are rolling blackouts of indifference, New Yorkers’ trademark complacence.
Lines of cars wrap city blocks like crunchy, crunchy sushi rolls. It may not be pleasant to wait hours in line for a $20 ration of gasoline, but it is easy to understand. Easier than questioning: why, why, why this dependence on cars, this constant waste of resources, this excess that is driving our climate to change to an environment more friendly to superstorms that will wreck us. At least the lines are peaceful. We have fought a hurricane and now we are tired: our signature complacence.
Boyfriend & I gather our implements. We are cabin feverish and stir crazy and decide to climb the walls somewhere better suited for such shenanigans: the climbing gym. We pack headlights, sustenance, puffy jackets, rope (in case we meet any wayward trees), samurai swords, in case of zombies. This is the apocalypse after all. Yes, after all.