002. tension & ghosts

Letters to Mam

Mam,

Last week was the kind of nightmare I’m glad you weren’t here to see.

The guilt I feel in even thinking that is tremendous, but there is it, immediate and definite. I don’t think you’d fault me for it. I know how you would have worried if you’d known what I am about to tell you and, feeling powerless to help, how that worry would have stirred into a full panic, which would have done no one any good.

In the midst of record low temperatures, my apartment lost power for approximately 60 hours. About halfway through the ordeal, I was able to escape said apartment for a friend’s house 30 minutes down the highway. I remembered everything you taught me as I drove down the one cleared lane: go slow, keep your wheels straight, don’t throw your brakes, look for black ice under bridges. Everything I know about surviving comes from your warnings.

Mercifully, I got myself and your grandkitty safely to my friend’s home, which had relatively consistent power over the next two days. I ate better than I’d eaten in weeks (my friend, L, is a divine cook) between rounds of boiling, cooling, and storing water, binge-watching Netflix series, and shitposting on Twitter to release the tension roiling in my body.

I was finally able to return home on Thursday. By then, the roads were better, and the heat had returned to my two-story flat. One of the first things I saw when I entered was a huge cockroach on my stove, and all I could do was sigh before disposing of it.

It’s now many days later. I still have no hot water, and won’t for many days still, but I have little else to complain about. I am one of the extremely lucky ones—the privileged ones—who was spared burst pipes and ruined belongings and hypothermia and everything else. So many have lost so much.

I don’t find it a coincidence that my neighborhood—largely working poor, multi-generational, immigrant and otherwise BIPOC—was targeted for such an extended “rolling” blackout. Knowing you, you would have played devil’s advocate while secretly agreeing with me, just to push me to think more complexly. That used to annoy me, especially when my passions flared hot and righteous and I just wanted someone to tell me I was right, that it was okay to be angry.

Today, I miss it, even as I know that I would prickle at your defenses.

Perhaps soon I will learn how to argue with a ghost.

Love,

A