After dipping into canned hurricane provisions for lunch today I realized it was time to go to the grocery store. And not the bodegas across the street, which, while lovely and have served me many a pint of ice cream in times of need, only offer so much (and little to no fruits or veggies).
The neighborhood is weird today, three days after the storm, like I’m looking at it through a wobbly plastic filter that’s making everything seem slightly off-color. The grocery store was crowded but poorly stocked, missing things I didn’t expect — cheeses and black beans and eggs. I am not complaining; just observing. An old 90’s Gin Blossoms song was playing and I started to tweet “Grocery stores always play Gin Blossoms. #notcomplaining” but I stopped myself, feeling too frivolous.
Yesterday was the first day I really left my apartment, going for a long walk along the East River and up through Brooklyn Heights, bolstered by the rescue mission of my sister out of Hoboken, a town still in desperate need of help and evacuations. I felt positive yesterday, now that she was safe, like we were through the worst and things were back on the “normal” meter.
Today is different. It’s November 1st and my concerns have shifted. I am worried about the fact that “normal” is gone, replaced by something new. I’m anxious about the election; that many people who would have voted can no longer, or that it will no longer be a priority. I’m worried, selfishly, about how I’m going to get to work once power is back on. And I’m thinking about my hometown of Long Beach Island, and the city I lived in for a decade, Hoboken, and the city I live in now, New York. And how all of them will be different now. And how change is hard.
Everyone’s talking about rebuilding better than ever and how we’ll get through it and sure, all of that is true, no doubt. But just once I’d like us to be allowed to mourn for a while, to at least acknowledge the sheer weight of what is now different, before we have to “be strong.” I don’t know the state of my family’s house on Long Beach Island — the home in which I grew up; the home my ancestors built in 1921. I’ve only been able to see its rooftop, taken from an aerial photo. At least it is still standing, I told myself. At least there is still a roof to be seen.
And they are just houses, a part of me knows. But most of me knows they are more than that. That house is love and history and family. That house is a front porch and an outside shower and the attic stairs where my boyfriend fell down and fractured his foot just last month. That house is gin & tonics and friendly ghosts and a secret closet I’ve never even seen inside. That house is news of my baby brother’s arrival and a recurring nightmare I had as a kid and Cabbage Patch Dolls under a Christmas tree.
We are all safe and lucky, always, just by sheer nature of being born Americans, where we have things like FEMA and insurance and a general, collective agreement that destruction like this cannot stand. I know all this, and you do too, but still, we’re caught in between normalcy and non-normalcy, and I’ve always been bad with in-betweens.