Hurricane Aftermath

The man in the room next to mine really goes at it with his peter. I can hear him through the wall. Morning. Afternoon. Evening. He doesn’t keep a schedule.

We’ve been at this hotel nearly a week now. The big bastard of a Hurricane made us relocate. I was in my apartment when a servicewoman knocked on my door and began speaking.

“This is a mandatory city-wide evacuation. Please gather your belongings and leave the city. If you do not have transportation out of the city, we have-”

 I opened the door.

“Well hello,” I said. “I was just sitting down to my toast and coffee. I just brewed a pot.”

“Sir, are you aware of the mandatory evacuation?”

“Yes, of course. But I’m not going anywhere. I’ve ridden all the other ones out. This one will be no different.”

“Sir, while I cannot force you to leave I can ask if you have any next of kin or relatives that can assist you.”

“Ah.” I said. “No. I don’t have any of that. Now, do you mind? It’s awfully windy out there. It’s blowing my things around in here.”

“What is your social security number, sir?”

“Why on earth do you want that?”

“Because I am going to write it on your arm with this permanent marker, so when the rescue crews find your floating corpse they will be able to identify you.”

The last time I packed a suitcase, I was in my thirties and headed to the city I have been forced to abandon. I was beginning a life then. I had a fiancée. A silver Chrysler. That suitcase had everything in it. This suitcase did not. A couple of days ago, the Red Cross stopped by the hotel and handed out bottles of water, canned food and sundries.

“Do you have any underwear?” I called out.

I watch the television in my room. I watch the news channels. It’s always the Hurricane. They even have a Hurricane Aftermath theme song. It all seems speedy and devastating. The newspeople talk so dramatically. They seem more like actors on a stage.

I thought I saw my apartment building in one of the reports. It looked like my landlord was standing on the roof. I wonder if I still have to pay rent.

I’ve swam in the pool down by the lobby. But, I only brought one pair of shorts, so I can’t do much more of that. It’s a small rectangle pool, which sits in a solarium type of room. The green windows are covered in layers of old steam. It’s fun for the children here. It’s too loud for me. I always thought that a pool was to be enjoyed while on vacation, but I don’t feel like I’m on a vacation. I wait for word of when we can return to the city. A shuttle bus is supposed to come around when we can leave. I find it odd that we have to wait to return to a place where we live. It seems as if they are cleaning up the house, as it were, for dinner guests. Personally, I have been living there so long I know of no other place to live. I marvel that I am getting along at this hotel.

I eat the breakfast every morning. I can eat something different every morning, if I so choose. I have coffee and toast, just like I am at home; except they do not have rye bread, so I eat wheat. I asked the attendant if she could get me a loaf of rye bread, but she just smiled and placed more wheat bread on the counter. The butter comes in little plastic pats that I have to open with my front teeth. It tastes phony.

At home, I have real butter. It is churned from a creamery a few miles north of the city. I love that butter. It doesn’t chip. In fact, a knife glides right through it like a surfboard in a wave. It spreads across the rye toast so easily and soaks into the pores, creating a moistness I will never be able to recreate here.

A lot of folks at the hotel are in a hurry. They are on the telephone talking in frantic tones. They are rushing from the hotel to a van or sedan, pulling behind them haphazardly packed luggage wrapped with blankets and plastic bags. I see a lot of tears and hugs between strangers. On the second day here, a woman sat with me at a table in the kitchenette. She began to weep. She said she didn’t know what she was going to have left. I reached across the table and patted her shoulder.

“It will be okay. I’m sure you’ll still have something left.”

When the guy in the room next to mine starts to do it, I hear the bed hitting the wall. Then he starts panting. It sounds a bit like a boxer punching a speed bag. Then he yells and talks to himself.

“Ahhh! Come on! Come on! Huh! Huh!”

I don’t know if he knows that the walls are merely inches of lumbar, drywall, and insulation. It isn’t altogether soundproof. I have considered sliding a note under the door in an effort for him to please keep it down. But, I’ve thought about the situation; the big bastard Hurricane forcing people away from their homes and their stuff. I don’t have my rye toast and butter. Maybe the guy next to me doesn’t have something too. So, I let him go at it. And I listen to him too. Not out of a perverse sexual curiosity, those kind of days with me are long done, but with a curiosity that the man’s daily action is reaching an accord with his peace of mind. I hope that it is.

I may leave him a note, if I stay any longer in this hotel. But it won’t say, “Would you please keep it down,” it will say, “I too am lost here.”

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