The Eponymous Miss Irma Wants to Save the World

It’s been three days passed since the storm came and took out the power and nobody’s come yet. Three days since Emmanuel was in. He had his hair fresh cut and a clean shirt on, just like always. He brought me my lunch and helped me wash. Lunch was cold chicken noodle with a skin on it from sitting so long, along with a little cup of peaches. Those were warm. There’s been nothing to eat since then, just waiting in the bed, waiting for somebody to come fix the lights and take the shutters down. It’s been real dark. Hot. I never minded the dark, even when I was a girl, I liked it. Alone with my thoughts, I always imagined I was inventing the world.

Emmanuel came by, what was it, Friday, with his little push cart with my lunch tray, soap, a towel. He helped me wash. The water felt cool.

“The storm’s called Irma, just like you, Miss I.” He always calls me that, Emmanuel. He’s a nice boy, polite.

“Mother sure didn’t name me for a hurricane,” I told him.

“Well, you are feisty, but you’re no match for this one,” he told me. “Don’t worry, though, the construction crew is putting up the storm shutters. You’ll be safe.” People are always making promises around here. That’s been three days passed. “I’m going to go up to my grandmother’s when I get off later, Emmanuel told me while he spooned up cold gummy noodles. “See she has enough supplies to last, sit out the storm with her, make sure she’s alright. She’s not as lucky as you, Miss I. Up here, with these shutters, A/C. You’ve even got satellite.” He means the tv. I never turn that thing on. Just one catastrophe after another. “You’ll be just fine. Turn on your tv if you get bored. I’ll see you in a few days, after the storm’s passed.” Emmanuel squeezed my hand before he went out. Such a nice boy.

Saturday the workers put up the shutters and that’s the last time I saw the sky. All clear blue, no clouds anywhere. “Leave it open,” I told the maintenance man.

“Best be safe, ma’am,” he told me as he shut it. “Take care of yourself,” he said. Everybody here is so damn polite. His shoes squeaked as he walked away. Everybody else on the hall had their tvs blaring. They’re all deaf. Me, my hearing is better than ever, my doctor has a name for it. It’s my muscles that don’t work.

Sunday night the wind knocked out the power. Rain fell so hard it felt like it had something to prove. Oy. The kind of rain that turns stone to mud. Me, alone in the dark. Funny thing was I remembered this game I used to play when I was a girl. Me and my girlfriend used to pretend we ran a post office. I’d write the letters. They started out sweet and kind before I went on a dark bent. Used to write stories about how I was all alone, how my mother died and nobody was taking care of me. That girlfriend of mine, I can’t remember her name, she just ran and put them in the neighbors’ mailboxes. At first I didn’t sign them, then one day I started. I felt like being me. Irma. Mother beat me with a paddle when old Miss Rosie came by to check on me, crying. Mother never did tolerate my darkness. I had bad bruises after.

Sometime during the night or the day after, I started thinking how I’ve never been alone till now. Now that I’m old and mother’s dead, even my Max is gone, and my own boy’s up in New York trying to be an actor. I’m stuck here in this old folks’ home, scared. I wish Emmanuel would come back with his cool cloth. Everybody tells me I’m lucky to be here, but nobody ever visits me except him. The bed is soaked underneath me. I get to thinking about how maybe I created this mess. Irma, the hurricane. Maybe we all did a little bit, by living. Thinking only about ourselves and when that gets too much blaring the tv to drown out the thoughts. And how if we could just see the sky again, get out of the dark, maybe it would save us all.