Letters from LSMSA: The Power is Out

By Lily St. Amant (’22)
(Ruston, LA)

The power is out.

My power is out, and yet here I am. Typing.

My parents went into work today because there is power in the office. Yet, even wearing masks, they run the risk of contracting COVID. My parents went into the office today — and, in doing so, risked contracting COVID — so that they could charge their phones, and my computer, because we are going to be days without power. Now we all run the risk of having been exposed to COVID-19.

It is hot inside, even with all of the curtains closed — and there are a lot of curtains. It was hotter when the curtains were open. I do not wear dresses, usually, because I do not like wearing dresses for a long list of reasons. I am wearing a dress because it is made only of cotton and is thin, and I am sweating through my deodorant. I am wearing a dress because inside I am sweltering, and it is worse out on the patio, or in the front yard, or on the scalding-hot road that I usually take walks along. I did not go out to take a walk because there is a heat advisory, and yet, I am inside, and I am melting.

I didn’t shower yesterday because I didn’t want to waste water. Today, I lit two candles–three wicks each — and turned the shower on and counted to three. I lathered bar soap over my underarms and turned the shower on and counted to five and turned it off again. I kept going like that, for counts of five. The water was cold. It was a sweet relief from melting in the sweltering living room, but I probably stopped after six or seven counts. I didn’t want to waste water.

The power is out. It will be out for days. My house is like an oven. The power is out, and so the AC doesn’t work. The fan doesn’t work. The food in the freezer is thawing, and the food in the fridge will have spoiled soon. At least I can make sun tea. I always wanted to make sun tea. When I open the jar to drink it, the glass has expanded, and so it is nearly impossible to open. It is warm, and usually tea is supposed to be warm but now I am only hotter. I want tea with ice cubes in it.

My cat is hiding under the couch, in the shade, at the lowest altitude in the house. I put melty ice in a baggy and offer it to her. I don’t know what I expect her to do with it — cuddle it, maybe. I worry for her; here I am, afraid of heatstroke, and yet she wears a thick coat of fur. She is worse off than I. I fear for her. She nudges the ice away with the tip of her nose. When I reach out to pet her, her fur is hot to the touch.

I was halfway through the second week of online school when the hurricane hit. We didn’t know it would hit Northern Louisiana so badly. We barely realized it would hit us at all before the power lines toppled and the mayor said that it would take until Tuesday or Wednesday to fix. And there is a heat advisory out.

I consider myself lucky. On the second day, my mom found ice! We have melty ice in the fridge now.

I think it might be melted, but I do not go check.

I don’t want to go check.

I don’t want to see it melted.

I have unfinished school assignments, but they all require the internet. They are all listed on the internet. It is a good thing that I write them down on paper every week. I have this past week’s written out on paper; but even so, I cannot focus on the homework that has no need for internet. I can still hear the tree falling next to my room. It was pressed against the window in my closet. Two inches closer, and the clothes hanging there would have been covered in glass, shattered like thin sheets of sugar candy.

I am still overwhelmed, and distracted, by the hurricane.

I can get on my phone. The connection is down, usually. I texted my friend for a few minutes yesterday, and then my service went out. It comes back in mangled, spotty signals — when there is a signal.

I have data on my phone. It is slow to load.

I cannot load my school website on it, the one for homework.

I cannot see what homework I have due.

They are extending the deadlines, because lots of us may be without power. They are giving us a week off, either to catch up on work or to get our power back. Hopefully it is not to catch up on work, because I am scared that our power won’t be back soon. I am worried that my classes will double up on work to make up for the lost week — worried because I am distracted, and I can’t even manage to memorize my lines for Theatre. I am supposed to have them memorized by Monday. Today is Saturday.

I’ve just sat and written a lot. I wrote part of a surrealist novella, and I finished drafting my book of poetry. I am writing this, and I’ve started two blog articles. I don’t have a blog. I am distracted, and I even get distracted from writing. That’s why I didn’t finish the articles. Maybe I should start a blog.

See, I’m getting distracted again.

I have eaten a lot of cookies. I bought cookies, in bulk, online. They were on sale. I meant for them to last the month, but I ate them in two weeks. There is nothing left to do, and yet there is so much left to do in the midst of a power outage, in the wake of a hurricane.

We didn’t even get the brunt of it — my town isn’t far enough south for flooding, and at least my house is intact. Some stairs outside are broken. I watched as the tree limb fell on them. I realized that it could have fallen on me. I couldn’t sleep that night because I was scared the next one would fall on me.

I am behind on my schoolwork, but I cannot focus. I cannot access internet outside of my phone data, which is spotty at best; and so there is so much school that I cannot access.

I cannot focus on the school that does not require internet.

I said that already, but here I am saying it again. For emphasis, I guess.

Because of COVID, we cannot stay with friends who offer their laundry machines and their showers. It is not safe to visit their houses to do laundry, or to take long, hot, air-conditioned showers. Because of COVID, we are forced to decline.

I am so hot that it feels like I’m dying, and some over-dramatic part of me wonders if this is what Hell is like. Do I even believe in Hell?

I’m thinking a lot in this power outage, during quarantine. The pandemic is raging in Louisiana, after all. The pandemic is raging, and we have no power. It is such a strange world, this one that I live in.

I can still hear the crunch, or maybe more of a snap — or maybe I can’t even remember it at all, and I keep reimagining the sound that the branch made when it smashed through the deck, or the sound of the tree as it collapsed right next to my room. I wasn’t in my room. I heard the sound, and I panicked ran from it. I ran because I was afraid it could crush me, even though I was in the living room when the tree came down.

But I’m lucky.

I’m lucky, and the power is out.

Letters from LSMSA will be an ongoing series featuring writing from LSMSA students participating in the school’s newspaper: The Renaissance.

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