Living on my Own

January 29, 2008
By Caeli Higgins, Port Washington, NY

When I turned 19, my parents allowed me to move off campus from my small, liberal college into a spacious one room apartment above a popular boutique. I had just finished unpacking the last of my possessions and was envisioning what the place would look like with proper interior design (heavy curtains, burgundy furniture), when the phone rang. It was my mother, anxiously pleading with me to turn on the radio or the television or something, because there were urgent news reports about an upcoming flood. I sighed, exasperated, and cordially informed her that had she paid for my electricity or cable, I would have been delighted to. “Well, never mind about that, then. You’re high up in that apartment, just stay inside.” I hung up on her, annoyed. I had already been planning to spend a relaxing evening in bed (red wine, Vogue), but felt it was prudent to assert her lack of authority over whether I stayed in or not.
It was already starting to pour- heavy raindrops exploded on my roof, and although it was 5 o’clock in the afternoon, the world outside my window was a dark shade of grey. I curled up in bed with the aforementioned necessities. The pattering on my roof made my eyelids heavy, and thirty minutes later, the half-drunk bottle of wine lulled me into a deep sleep.

I awoke to what sounded like a million shattering chandeliers. The world outside my window was pitch-black, and thanks to my parents’ negligence regarding the electricity bill, my apartment was as well. The raindrops were violent now, and the air was permeated with a splintering symphony of screams. I wrapped myself in the overstuffed comforter my mother had insisted on buying and crept toward the window. The water must have been three feet high; I had never seen such a flood before, and I was voraciously grateful for the altitude at which my apartment stood. People were wading through the streets, up to their waists in black water. There was no power in any house or building for what seemed like miles. Amorphous figures floated past - alligators, sharks, dead bodies, courtesy of my cruel imagination. I realized that the splintering sounds I had woken to were coming from the strip mall down the street. There was a crowd of people running from the mall through water and debris, carrying illicit treasures above their heads. Every few minutes another window would break. The people would rush in, trickle out, then rush back for more. I watched with fascination as entire stores were gutted. First came the home improvement store, where middle-aged townies worked, all flannel shirts and friendly smiles. After they had cleared it out, the window looked like a gaping black hole. Lightning reflected off the remaining shards of glass and illuminated the devestation. Next door was a giant department store, generally inhabited by bubblegum teens and staffed by single mothers with premature wrinkles, all of whom wore fake gold jewelry and sensible pumps. Pristine window displays were tumbling out of the windows now- manikins maimed by broken glass, stripped of their brand new clothes. I watched this grisly parade for hours, cocooned in my precious comforter, a thin piece of plexiglass protecting me from the vicious world. The riotous procession slowly moved down the block, coming closer with every broken window. Soon they were next door, at old Mr. Parson’s comic book shop. I liked Mr. Parson because he sold single pieces of candy for 2 cents each and looked away when the after school crowd came in to filch them. I hoped the mob wouldn’t find much of interest in his store, but they stayed for nearly an hour. I looked away when they ran with Mr. Parson’s treasures. I couldn’t help but imagine his heart breaking harder and harder as the damage got worse.

I turned away from the window and climbed back into bed. Clutching the phone to my chest, I wrapped the warm, secure comforter around my arms and over my ears to block out the cruel noise. I stayed in that position all night, shaking as the mob raided the boutique downstairs. I tried to sleep, but the cacophony of destruction was unrelenting. As the sun rose, I pressed the phone to my ear. She picked up on the first ring. I tried to speak, but found myself sobbing instead. “I’m coming”, she said. “Don’t worry, sweetheart, I’ll be right there.” I nodded, dropped the phone onto the bed, and breathed a sigh of relief.

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