When I arrived at my apartment, I found a tree down in my front yard. It had missed my porch by four feet. When I went into my apartment, I found that it had escaped without a lick of damage. However, I had no electricity and it was stifling inside without air-conditioning, so I stripped down to my boxer shorts and then opened all three windows—the bedroom and living room windows facing east and the kitchen window facing north—pulled up the shades and let the breeze blow through. None of my immediate neighbors had returned home yet. To my delight, I found the inside of the refrigerator still cool, which meant the electricity had gone out no more than twelve hours earlier. The only thing that had spoiled was a partially consumed package of hummus, which I threw out. Everything else was edible, so I had a vegetarian dinner of Italian soy sausage, tabbouleh and garbanzo jardinière with a bottle of still cool water. Occasionally, I would go out to the car, start the engine and sit in the A/C and listen to the news on the radio. The last time I did so was after dark. While I was walking with flashlight in hand to the car, I was accosted by a neighbor, Randall, also with flashlight, who was patrolling for looters. We chatted for a while and at one point, I happened to look up and see the night sky black but lit up by thousands of stars—a sight I had not seen since Hurricane Andrew because the usual light pollution obscures such a view in any city. Both Randall and I stood a moment looking up and enjoying the beauty of the night sky. I said, “Well, that’s one good thing Irma did—give us a clear view of the heavens.” I returned to my apartment, lit candles for the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom and spent time writing in cursive on a yellow legal pad, a method of writing I hadn’t used in years except for post-it notes and telephone messages.
The next morning, I realized that my parking space was the only one that had been usable. The rest of the spaces were covered in tree limbs and leaves; so too the one across the street. Therefore, I spent the morning dragging the limbs to one space and piling them up, then sweeping all the little branches and leaves onto the pile. Thus, I cleared our parking lot. Then I cleared the one across the street, making a pile of limbs and leaves on the nearby lawn. While I was doing that, I saw two men checking out a van in my parking area. The van had caught a palm tree that had shattered the windshield and dented the hood and whose trunk still lay across the hood, which the men were endeavoring to move. I asked if I could help. They said yes, so I went over and the three of us were able to lift the trunk and drop it off the hood onto the ground, so it became part of the pile I had created. After that I noticed that some of my feline neighbors, the local feral cats, were looking mighty thin, and I realized that no one had probably fed them in four or five days. I remembered that I had some frozen fish in my freezer, so I pulled out some thawed swai swai filets and spread them on some plastic near the gate of the complex. It didn’t take long for the piscine odor to draw the cats, who chowed down. The next day I laid out some jumbo shrimp; and the next, some canned sardines. By that time, many of the residents had returned and the cats had resumed their usual sources of nutrients.