Absence

For days they had been giving warnings about evacuating before the hurricane hit.  Having been in two hurricanes out at sea in a top-heavy destroyer, and having watched the online track of the storm, Gordy knew that he’d be okay if he stayed put.  Yes, there would be wind and rain, but it didn’t look as if the house would fly apart!  So he stayed put.  He filled the tub with water for flushing the toilet.  In the kitchen he lined up containers filled with drinking water.  He got out the bourbon to celebrate life’s interruption!  At one A.M. on Saturday he awoke and discovered that the power had gone out.  Rolling over, he went back to sleep, expecting to have power in the morning.  Life, however, has a way of doing an end-run around our expectations, and he woke up to a different world!  When the power goes out and all of our machines fall into the uselessness of massive silence, the loss of expected normality deposits us in a place of disorientation, and Gordy found himself confusingly adrift that Saturday morning!

It was a strange experience to be in the familiar house and to yet feel that it was a strange and foreign country!  No lights, no computer, no radio, no hot water… no taken-for-granted normal Saturday morning.  And as he focused on what was now missing from his daily life, un-sought thoughts of his departed Jilly emerged from within the depths of the silence.  A line from the movie “Womb” came to mind: “Just because you went away doesn’t mean that you’re not here anymore.”  Her knick-knacks on the kitchen shelf, her comfy chair in the living-room, a sudden yearning for a dish they used to eat together. Even though she had stormed out of his life, within the now-quiet house her absence crowded the rooms!

All of Saturday he read, the reading interrupted every so often by food-foraging trips to the local gigantic Kroger, which… for some strange reason… still had power, its multitudinous freezers still humming with electric life!  Not so Gordy’s own freezer!  On Sunday the upright freezer in the back room, which had been in desperate need of defrosting, took matters into its own hands and began leaking water… a lot of water, so Gordy spent the morning soaking up water with towels and chipping away at ice!  When the distraction of the freezer’s suicide came to an end, he tried to read but Jilly kept insistently nibbling at the edges of his attention!  He re-heard the conversations.  He re-argued the fights.  But she remained gone, even while being naggingly present!  The sudden painfulness of missing her caused him to wonder,  “Maybe I was more wrong in our relationship than I knew?”

At 7:30pm on Monday, while he sat at the open window watching evening’s shadows creeping across the drive, the power came back on.  Normalcy returned.  But the phantom Jilly remained.  Oddly, he suddenly recalled an episode of Judge Judy in which the accused had blurted out, “Your Honor, it’s been that way my whole life with my mother sayin, ‘Pack your bags, we goin’ on a guilt-trip!’

Kahu Kimo

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