I was soaked. Drenched, sopping, dripping, filthy and carrying twenty pounds of groceries.
Let’s rewind. An hour beforehand my sister and I decided that we needed to do some grocery shopping, except: we needed to go to it at the Super Stop & Shop that was a ten minute walk from my apartment. Leaving the house with our umbrellas in hand, we made our way down the hill of 48th street, under the trestle of the Long Island Rail Road, past the Home Depot Parking Lot to the entrance of the supermarket. To say that the rain pissing down on us was anything less than biblical, would be a gross understatement. Torrents of rain! Buckets of rain! Rain so thick and strong that when the wind blew the visibility fell to only a few feet. The lightening was striking mighty close as well! Each flash in the sky would immediately answer back with a loud chest exploding boom and crack, setting off car alarms and shaking the ants my sister and I had become, sending us scurrying and screaming and laughing.
I wore my flip-flops, knowing full well as we first set off that the sky would most likely open up and we’d get drenched. We went shopping, imagining in our ignorance that once done the rain would let up and we’d walk home in much cooler temperatures. We stepped out of the store and saw bedlam before us. It seemed that in the course of 40 minutes the entire street by the entrance to the Home Depot parking lot flooded with feet of water. Cars sat submerged in 4-5 feet of dirty, muddy, trash-filled destruction. The traffic was halted as everyone in their cars stared with a dumbfounded expression at the Noah’s-Ark-worthy flood that had stopped up 48th street.
My first thought was: Oh Shit. I’ve never seen a flood before. I grew up in New York City and have seen plenty of houses floating away on boulevards covered in a free flowing river on CNN, I’ve seen waterfalls in the subways, and really, really big puddles on Broadway. But this: This sight before me was a new experience. Cars that had been parked on the street were nose deep, the sidewalk was completely lost, and small waves splashed up against the side of the buildings as cars stuck their toes into the water before deciding that the river was too deep to forge, and then turned around.
I looked at my sister. “We have no choice, we have to go through it.”
“Are you sure?!” She asked looking slightly worried and thrilled.
“We have no other choice! This is the only way to get back to the apartment. It’s this way or we have to walk about 40 minutes in another direction!”
We stood there in dumbfounded silence as we watched a brave soul forge the river. She was the first human we’d seen on the street. The tiny asian woman was wearing a garbage bag and was pushing a wire mesh cart. The water, at its deepest, came up to her hips. She soldiered on, clinging to the side of the chain-link fence like a subway rat to keep from being carried away until eventually reaching the shallows under the trestle on the other shore and then disappearing into the rain.
“If she can do it, we can.” I said, determined. “Let’s go.”
To say that swimming through that river was just about the filthiest thing I have ever done, would be correct. There were leaves, grass, branches, McDonalds wrappers, greasy oil slicks, and most likely the dead bodies of discarded mob hits floating at the unseen bottom. I felt the floor with my flip-flops praying that the cheap $2 pair of thongs wouldn’t snap in the water leaving me wet and shoe-less. The water got up to my mid thigh before it finally began to recede. I held the groceries up to my chest as I balanced the umbrella on my shoulder probably looking completely ironic and silly with an umbrella protecting my head from the rain while the rest of me was submerged in a flood.
I moved slowly up the hill from the disaster. Cars and trucks on the other side of the water looked on at the two of us as if we were the swamp things coming up out of the muck. One idiot decided that he’d drive on the sidewalk and crept past us in his white 4xNothing SUV. My Sister called out that he should turn around, but her voice got lost in the pouring of the rain and I secretly hoped that car would get swallowed up in the torrent.
I was so angry! Why why why was this happening to me!? WHY did we have to go shopping at that grocery store!? I felt the frustration of breaking up, coming back from vacation, changing plans, the pressure of turning 25 and bunking up with my sibling all bubble up, as if wading through that filthy refuse had unstuck all of that and floated it up to my conscious surface. A huge clap of thunder boomed and I screamed. I set down my groceries and took a couple of deep breaths. The rain poured and poured. My sister stopped walking and watched me appraisingly, as if waiting for a signal in which way to proceed. Is Natalie going to fall apart? Is she alright? I felt the water run down my back and closed my eyes. I felt like screaming more, so I did.
The thunder echoed in response. My sister, ahead of me, put down her bags of groceries. She analyzed my voice and body language, and: seeing that my response to our current circumstance was not directed at her, she breathed deep and walked on. “It’s behind us now, Natty.” She said matter-of-factly. “In fact, that was kinda’ fun.”
I looked at my soaked clothing and shook the wet hair out of my face before picking up the groceries. I felt better for screaming really loud. I felt like less of a victim and felt less sorry for myself with each step. I took another breath. Actually, as much as that sucked, it was kinda’ fun, actually.
July 19, 2012 at 4:50 am by Natalie Allen