I’m Okay…Are You? Surviving the Storm — Erica L. Williams

The south is no stranger to natural catastrophes. Hurricanes, floods, and tropical storms are disasters in which most southerners have had enough practice to operate straight from memory, not needing a playbook. But the recent winter event caught many southern states off guard. In Texas, failed power grids leaving millions of Texans without power swarmed headlines. In southeast Louisiana, where I live, thousands, including myself, were left devoid of electricity due to treacherous icy conditions afftecting power lines. My heart bleeds for those adversely affected, the homeless, and the families of those who lost their life as a result of this winter weather event.

I hunkered down in my childhood home, a place that has withstood much. This includes the flood of 1983, the big kahuna-the Baton Rouge Flood of 2016, and all manner of weather-related calamities sandwiched in between. It’s still standing by the grace of God. So are we all.

As the temperatures dipped in the low teens, for seventy-two hours, the gas fireplace in the living room and the wood-burning fireplace in the adjacent den provided respite from the chill, and surprisingly, a balm for my psyche. The stress of all things COVID-19 and my father’s death had taken a toll.

The darkness commanded an ethereal stillness. Decreased charging capacity forced a limited amount of computer interaction-reduced social media. No television. The useless things that kept me tightrope walking, dangling on the ledge of procrastination, came to an abrupt halt.

A feeling of calmness pulsed through my veins as ribbons of smoke wafted up the chimney. The outdoorsy scent of fresh-cut wood permeated the room, twinkling and popping, gently morphing into burnt orange embers, blanketing the bottom in a heap of coal.

I wrote by hand until my fingers cramped. I read. Not on a Kindle, but a book by candlelight, the smooth edges of the crème-colored pages tickling my fingertips like feather quills. It was the most peaceful I felt in days…years.

In one of the books, “This Close to Okay” by Leesa Cross-Smith, Tallie Clark rescues a desperate man from a bridge, and they end up spending a highly charged weekend together filled with lies, secrets, and hope.

In one scene, Tallie texted him and asked, “are you ok?”

He replied. “Close.”

I heard myself responding in my head. Me too.

Originally published at https://ericalwilliams.com on February 18, 2021.

MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Work has appeared in Necessary Fiction, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Blood Orange Review, & elsewhere.

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