“Mom, mom, MOOHHM”, you screech as you jolt out of bed. She runs to your room, and pants when she arrives. You frightened her. She thought that something was seriously wrong. You tell her that you did not wake up to your alarm that morning, and when you plugged your dead phone into its charger, the screen remained black. She looks at you plainly, in mild disappointment. You continue to communicate your situation, and mention that you think the power is out. She is exasperated, dismisses your concerns, rolls her eyes, and instructs you to never yell for her unless it’s a real emergency. Her glare sends goosebumps up your arms. “You are blowing this way out of proportion,” she retorts. “There was probably just a big gush of wind that knocked some things out of place.” She leaves your room just as quickly as she arrived. The slam of the door knocks the portrait of you, her, and dad off of the dresser. You look at it from across the room and leave it face down.
You plop down against your door and sit in your room. This is the coldest the air has ever felt. You let your long, dark brown hair droop ever so slightly over your eyes and stare longingly into the emptiness of the wall above your bed stand. You never noticed that this wall has a fainted polka-dot pattern on it. In fact, you hadn’t noticed that all of your walls have this same fainted pattern. It never occurred to you just to look around your room every once in a while, to see what was in it. If someone had asked you to describe your room one day, you wouldn’t have been able to. It was always the little things that you refused to see. Your stomach growls profusely. But you ignore it and grab your phone that is lying face down on your hand-threaded carpet. You want so badly to scroll mindlessly through Instagram, just to help pass some time. But you can’t. The phone won’t charge. Your stomach yells this time, and you decide to curl up into your bed, just as if you hadn’t already woken up that morning.
A few hours later, you wake up to the cries of your stomach. You dash down the stairs and into the kitchen. The stone tiles feel as though they are crystalizing your feet with each step you take. There is a static noise playing somewhere in the living room. There, you see your mom kicked back in the reclining chair, adjusting the antennas of a radio. She looks just as unbothered as can be. Neither of you dares acknowledge the other, let alone make eye contact. If you had, it would lead to a lecture that you didn’t have time to care for. So you ignore her. Sitting in the fridge is half a bowl of leftover pasta salad, brown spotted grapes, and the turkey sausage you made for breakfast two mornings ago. None of it looks pleasing to you. Hesitantly, you reach for the turkey sausage and plop it in the microwave. You mash the +30 seconds button, but it doesn’t light up. You try again. Oh right, the power is out—you already forgot. You nibble on the turkey sausage and its texture is that of defrosting bananas. Disappointed and still hungry, you carefully mouse up the stairs and look back at your mom from halfway up. She remains eyes closed, intently listening to the static coming out of the radio. The noise is encouraging the arrival of a headache. You look away and continue to creep up the stairs. The empty kitchen shows no trace of your having ever been there.
You spend the next two days in a large sweatshirt, alone in your room, only going to the kitchen when you absolutely need to for water and whatever food is still edible. Not at any moment do you and your mom cross paths for those two days. It is awful and you miss her but you don’t want to tell her that. You roll out of bed, after staring at the lint that is floating above you for thirty minutes non-stop. You slowly swipe your hand across your marble-plated nightstand and pull open its drawer. Encased in a plethora of mini-cobwebs is the art pad that your mom gave you for your birthday a year ago. You pick it up and attempt to blow the cobwebs away. You sit there gazing in amazement at the thought of her. She really does care about you. You know it. It’s just that it never feels like the kind of love that you remember seeing mothers give their little girls—no their baby girls—in the movies and tv shows. You and your mom have something else, and you are not quite sure if you’d call it love, not even tough love matches the feeling. There was something missing, and it was big enough to leave empty shelves in your heart, waiting so patiently to be filled again.
That night, you muster up enough courage to confront her, to finally tell her how you really feel. When dad was there, he told you to always speak from your heart and tonight you felt the calling in your heart. You open your bedroom door, and you step into the hallway that separates your world from hers. You inch forward, trying not to make a sound. It is pitch black, and you rely on muscle memory to guide your feet in the right direction. Your feet are becoming heavier with each step and your thighs begin to burn from the weight dragging them behind. You can feel stomach bile hitting the back of your throat. Sweat is dripping down the hairs that stand out on the back of your neck. You had never been this close to telling her anything. Suddenly, the floorboard beneath you creeks and snaps. All at once, her door swings open and the white light of a flashlight burns your eyes. You become dizzy and feel tingles racing up your spine as you dash back to your room. She shouts after you, “WHY ARE YOU STILL UP?!”, but it’s too late, for you have already crawled back into your bed and stuffed yourself under layers of sheets and a heavy duvet. You weren’t ready to tell her how much you wished she were like a mom in the movies. You lie there sobbing. Sobbing from being so close to telling her, yet failing in a split second. You hear her door close shut in the distance. You sob and sob until your head hurts and exhaustion takes over.
* * *
It has been three months now since the outage, and by word of mouth, you have heard the news of international governments declaring it a national condition for as long as they can see out into the future. They have started to deliver solar-powered mini-radios to homes, as they seem to be the best means of communication for the time being. These mini-radios are the only thing that the local government can provide to your small town, so you take what you can get. Lately, the only updates that have been spurting out of the radio are warnings of severe weather conditions. But, you haven’t noticed anything major like the officials have been mentioning on the radio. Your town is really only experiencing moderate winds, and week-long stretches of no rain. Although nothing seems to be immediately alarming, you keep your eyes on the clouds and record their growth, as they seem to be abnormally swelling with each passing week. You ask your mom if you all should start collecting supplies for safety reasons—just in case things do go out of whack. Your brief conversations with her have only been a series of grunts, sighs, and eye rolls up until now. You can tell that she doesn’t quite believe what the radio is saying, but something about the uncertainty in the radio program’s voices causes her to reluctantly agree with you. You both go out that day to collect what is left at the abandoned gas station two blocks away from the house, leaving your mini-radio in the living room.
The door of the corner store swings open with a gust of wind. It is vacant and the emptiest it has ever been. You both walk up and down the aisles, checking under the shelves that lie an inch above the floor for anything that may have slipped under. In the end, your mom has a box of canned corn and you have three candles, half a box of matches, and bandages. On the way back to your house, a red Toyota truck zips past you as fast as the wind blows. You recognized the face and the truck, it was definitely someone from your neighborhood. The winds are blowing very heavily by the time you arrive at your front door, and you both push the door open to step inside.
You listen to car doors and trunks opening and closing nearby. You peek out the living room window and see more cars zip, surprised that they still have gas in their tanks. You question why people are leaving. The winds are the only thing that has changed since you last heard the updates. Oh right, the radio. You tune into the weather alerts to see what is causing the ruckus. The officials are warning about extreme downpour heading to your town. Still staring out the window, you crinkle your brows and tilt your head up. Oddly enough, the clouds look pristine and the sun shines straight through them. They look so normal that it’s frightening. Before going to bed that night, you take one last peek out of the living room window. The only cars left are the house across from yours and your old neighbor to the right.
A loud thunderclap cracks open the sky, and you are on your feet within a second—your eyes bloodshot and wide open. It’s extremely dark out. You feel for your door handle and swing open the door. “MOOHHM”, you yell in an unwavering pitch. She comes marching to your room with a single lit candle in hand. The candle shines on the dilated pupils of her dark green eyes. She grabs hold of your left arm and before you know it you are in your basement. Already down there is another lit candle and the items that you picked up from the store. Another thunderclap strikes from the clouds. There is a single window in your basement that is halfway covered with rain and mud, blurring your vision of the outside. Your mom sits across from you as if there is a physical barrier splitting you both apart. You listen outside as the rain grows louder and the thunder rolls deeper. You start shivering and your teeth chatter. Your toes are freezing but they feel as if they are on fire. “All we have to do is wait it out. It’ll be over soon enough,” mom says as she draws imaginary circles on the concrete floor. But it doesn’t get better. The rains turn to hail the size of golf balls. As soon as one ball of ice strikes the basement window, water comes gushing in and it doesn’t slow down. It seeps through the floor on all sides now, along with dirt and sediment. Mom grabs the two candles and grabs you too. She is holding you extremely tight now and curling herself over you like a flowering bud opening in reverse. She is protecting you from all the elements that are entering the house. She doesn’t even flinch when the hot wax drips down her hands. All she is focused on is keeping you warm and dry and getting through this storm. You both hold fast to each other, waiting for the rains, the winds, the hail, and the thunder to just cease. It takes all night and you fall asleep in each other’s arms. You dream about all of the earthly elements that night. Rain, water, and wind all working together in beautiful chaos. It’s so refreshing, and you feel the warmth—the fire that was missing —and comfort of your mom embracing you and wonder if this is what love feels like.
* * *
You and mom spend the next six months rebuilding. You rebuild your home and hearts, all with great intentionality and never forgetting what it felt like to be alone together. You take the time to address your issues and always speak wholesomely about things that you love and don’t. You spend time coming up with fun activities to pass the time on the slow days. Other days, you are out and about in your backyard, collecting the day’s wood from the trees, fresh water from the creek, and berries from the bushes. You visit your neighbors more than ever now and grow very close with them over the years. They become your family too.
You spend hours at a time outside, breathing in air so fresh, that it tingles your lungs when it fills you up. And of course, not all days are perfect. There are still days when you are reminded of life before the outage, of how easy you thought it could have been if you had electricity. There are still days when the weather is astonishingly erratic. But you remind yourself that you can always rebuild and that every day here is something new to look forward to. You and your loved ones may always be wary of what is to come, but you are grateful where you are right now. Right now, you take the time to enjoy the world you live in. And that is all you need.
Sofi Igyan is a rising senior at Episcopal High School, VA.