Asia is already filled with a multitude of feelings and emotions and now she has even more after talking to Chasity. She’s overwhelmed
with both her parents passing at the same time and bombarded with speaking with family and friends she hasn’t heard from in years, especially her childhood friend. She never in her wildest dreams could have imagined that Chasity would call her. It takes some deep thinking before she realizes that Chasity didn’t call her just because of her parent’s death. Chasity called her from out of the blue, where everyone else called to give condolences. But even though Chasity’s call came from left field, deep down inside, Asia knew she would soon be speaking to her friend. And sure enough it came to past. She has to put these thoughts to the back of her mind and try to concentrate on what’s at hand. She and her brothers are having some difficulties with her parent’s funeral arrangements. As to be expected, some things cannot be done right away. There has been some damage to the church where her mom attended and where they want to have the service. The damage won’t be cleaned up and the church will not be ready until next week. The funeral home also sustained some damage and they won’t be ready until next week, so everything has to be postponed. To make matters worse, the city is in more turmoil than she and Troy expected. The electricity is still out forcing the King family to walk up and down ten flights of stairs to and from her parent’s apartment every time they need to do something. Thank God, Asia thinks, that she, Troy and
the boys are in pretty good shape. Most of the food in the freezer and fridge is spoiled and there aren’t many nonperishables in the cabinets. And she didn’t think of bringing anything with them so she and Troy now have to revert back to their city minded ways in order to survive for the next week or so.
As usual, Troy will not allow Asia nor the boys to go outside with him. He’s going to get what they need. But they have to first find out what they actually have. Ms. Sally’s been using candles for light in the night, but more are needed. There are three cans of tuna fish, a half of a box of crackers, and two cans of ravioli. There is also some canned milk, a can of Hersheys’ chocolate powder, and anchovies. That’s about all there is in the cabinets. Asia wonders what Ms. Sally was going to do if she and Troy had not come. These food items would not have lasted long, especially not if her parents were still alive and also had to be fed. Her brothers had already left and went home to their families after finding out that she is staying. And the one time that she and Troy had left the apartment was not a good experience. She just went downstairs to speak to the superintendent about getting the room in the basement for the repast and ran into frustrated neighbors who are not happy. Many of the building’s occupants are older adults who have a hard time fending for themselves, so they are relying on the super and his maintenance workers to at least get needed water. Because of this, the workers are being harassed and blamed if they cannot produce fast enough. Thus creating frayed nerves which is leading to many arguments and fights.
After witnessing several of these scenes, Troy tells his wife to tell him what she wants him to get, and he is going to get it. At least he thinks he’s going to get the supplies they need until he gets outside and sees the belligerent chaos around him. Since her parent’s home is right off the highway, Troy and Asia only saw a fraction of what’s going on in the city. Now that he’s in the thick of it, he sees it’s worse than he expected. He looks around at the people who are on line it seems for everything from A-Z, and sees blank and confused faces staring back
at him. They also look angry, frustrated, tired and scared, and this makes him glad more than ever before, that he and his family were able to escape from the city when they did. He prioritizes the list Asia gave him, goes to the trunk of their car, gets two buckets that he’s glad he left there, and gets on line for water. The line starts from the fire hydrant on the corner of the street at the bottom of the hill and winds around two blocks. He looks at his watch and sees it’s ten minutes to two in the afternoon. He only has seven hours until curfew. Everyone now measures time by how many hours left until curfew, and wonders if he’ll be able to get everything by then.
He’s not the only one who’s thinking this because after being on line for an hour and a half, and getting close to the hydrant, several punks jump the line and begin filling up their buckets. This starts a screaming uproar from the people in front, and then all of a sudden gun shots ring out and people begin screaming and running, and scurrying behind parked cars. Troy drops to the ground and covers his head and torso with his buckets. He remains completely still as he peeks from under the bucket, seeing the hydrant with no one at it, he jumps up, races to it and begins filling up his bucket with water. He can’t believe his good fortune. By the time he’s on the second bucket, people realize the shooting has stopped, and instead of seeing who got shot, they also run to the hydrant to continue trying to get water. This is a level of desperation that he’s never seen before which propels him to quickly take his bucket and a half of water and high tail it out of there. When he makes it back to the building, he feels kind of guilty not seeing if anyone got hurt or even shot. But he must admit that he’s just glad he’s alright and is able to get some water for his family. He knows it’s not a lot, but it’ll have to do for now. This makes him think about all the full water barrels he has back at home around their house, and he feels sorry for these people in the city. He also knows that not everyone in the city has to go through this in order to get water and supplies. He thinks it’s just the poor folks in the projects and low income housing.
But he’s only half correct for there are people with money who are also struggling to live and survive. It’s bad everywhere.
By now it’s almost four o’clock as he glances at his watch and rings the buzzer to get into the building. Asia buzzes him in and he takes the stairs two at a time which gets him to the apartment quickly. He rings the bell and as soon as Asia answers the door, he rushes inside. “Troy, are you alright?”, she asks. “Yeah”, he responds back, and putting down the water, he tells her everything that happened. She’s shocked that he was only able to get water after all this time he’s been out, and after hearing his story, she’s scared for him to go back out there. “Troy, we don’t really need the rest of that stuff”, she says and waves her hand as to say it’s not important. “Babe, it’s four o’clock and I still have five hours before curfew, so I’m gonna go and try”. “It’s not just the curfew I’m worried about, I’m worried about your life! Troy”, she says with a high pitched voice. The kids and Ms. Sally are right there listening because the apartment is not that big, and they are also worried. Ms. Sally doesn’t know how bad it is because she hasn’t been out since the beginning of the storm, and to tell you the truth, she doesn’t want to unless she has to.
Beary rushes over to his father, wraps his arms around his leg, and looking up at Troy with big, round teary eyes says, “daddy, don’t go back out there. It’s dangerous and I don’t want you to get hurt!” Troy hugs his son and looking at all of them, says, “You guys know I won’t do anything to get into any harm, but I have to try to get what we need now. I can handle myself, and I’ll be safe”. Asia knows that look and tone of voice her husband is using, and she knows there’s no persuading him not to go, so instead of arguing with him, she says a prayer. And with that he’s out the door and bounding down the stairs once again taking them two at a time. She closes the door behind him, goes over to the window and checks on her phone that’s charging with a solar powered charger. She then watches Ms. Sally take all three tuna fish cans and make three sandwiches for herself. She eats all the sandwiches, and doesn’t offer any to Asia and the boys. Asia wonders
why she hasn’t noticed Ms. Sally’s selfish attitude before. With a sigh, and roll of her eyes, Asia splits up the buckets of water into smaller containers. Two for drinking, one for the kitchen and one for the bathroom. Ms. Sally helps herself to some of the drinking water before Asia can give some to the boys. Junior and Beary look at their mom with those we’re hungry mom, and what’s going to happen eyes, and Asia knows she’s not going to be able to stay here for long. She says another prayer, and tries to busy herself as she waits for her husband’s safe return.
Asia smiles and says, “I’m a smart woman”! Because she suddenly remembers that she packed four bottles of Iced tea along with potato chips, cookies, crackers, fruit rollups, and other kinds of snacks in one of her shopping bags. She looks for and finds the bag and gives the boys the tea and snacks. Asia spots Ms. Sally from her peripheral view and sees she has the nerve to be watching the boys eat their snacks. Junior and Beary see her too, and they do a most selfless thing. Even though Ms. Sally didn’t offer nor give them any of her food, they go over to her and bring their bag of goodies to her. Handing her the bag, Junior says, “here Ms. Sally, you can have some”. She takes the bag from Junior, picks out some chips, hands it back to him, and says, “thank you, young mon”, in her Jamaican accent. “Your welcome”, Beary says, answering for him. The two brothers giggle at each other as they continue munching on their snacks. They don’t care that they’re eating junk, they only know that their bellies are getting full. Asia is touched by how considerate her children are. They sure are more thoughtful and forgiving than she is because if it was left up to her, Ms. Sally wouldn’t have gotten anything. Plus, Asia’s not happy that the boys only ate junk food, but there’s nothing she can do about it now, she’s just glad they have something to eat.
Once outside, Troy begins prioritizing again. His next priority is securing some food for his family. He knows he needs to get nonperishables because they will last longer, but he also wants to get something for them to eat tonight that doesn’t require any cooking.
Time is not on his side so he jogs to the Associate Supermarket that’s four blocks away. When he gets there, there’s a line around the corner to get in and he knows it’s going to take a miracle if he’s even going to have a chance to buy something before the store runs out of goods, or he runs out of time. And just as he begins to pray as he walks towards the end of the line, he hears his name, and a hand reaches out and touches his arm. It’s one of his buddies from the kung fu school he attended years ago when he lived in the city. “Troy, it’s me Trevor”, says his friend as he puts his hand out. Troy slaps him five, fist bumps him, and finally hugs and pats him on the back. “Hey, man, how are you? Boy am I glad to see you Trevor”. “Yeah, man, I’m glad to see you too, do you see this crazy shit!? Man I’m about to blow!” “I know what you mean”, Troy responds as he notices that Trevor is at the beginning of the line and soon will be inside. Leaning over and whispering in his friend’s ear, Troy continues, “hey, man, do you think I can get in front of you?”
Both men size each other up after Troy’s request by looking at one another. Troy’s able to take in Trevor’s image while he looks him in the eyes. Trevor is still as Troy remembers him, tall and skinny. He’s a very light-skinned man, with a short and cropped afro, only now it has a salt and pepper color. Troy also looks the same to Trevor, as he sees his muscular, martial arts body. He’s always known him as a good person so Trevor whispers back, “sure man, if no one protests”. And knowing that the Lord has been favoring he and his family, Troy has the faith that it will continue and putting his hand on his friend’s shoulder he replies, “thanks, Trevor, I think it’s gonna be alright”. Troy tries to act and be inconspicuous as he and Trevor inch towards the store’s front doors. Two people behind Trevor on the line look at Troy when Trevor lets him get in front of him, but they don’t say much. A short and little guy mumbles something under his breath, but that’s all that happens. Trevor is a little mystified while Troy is grateful, and this is the perfect opportunity for Troy to talk to his friend about the Lord.
The men only get to speak for a few minutes because once inside
the store they say their goodbyes and go their separate ways. The supermarket is packed with people as Troy gets as much as he can from the list Asia gave him. Many of the shelves are bare and soon there won’t be any merchandise left. Troy realizes there won’t be enough food for all the people waiting on line and he feels sorry for them. This makes him even more grateful and he thinks, no, knows the Lord is watching over him. He gets on line again, this time to pay for and check out his groceries. And like every line in the city, it is a long one. He’s also grateful that he was able to get cash before leaving Pennsylvania because the ATM lines here in the city are outrageous and many people are experiencing difficulties using their credit/debit cards. Even though the stores that are open, and are powered with generators, are still running into problems. The system and machines are not working correctly and people are being turned down for credit. Some are having a hard time using debit too. This is creating a very delicate situation for the store managers who have no choice and don’t allow people to leave with much needed items.
An older Spanish woman, who’s right in front of Troy is not able to use her card to pay for her groceries, and doesn’t have cash money. Unfortunately, one of the security guards is forcing her off the line without her stuff and she begins to have a tantrum by kicking, screaming and crying. She’s yelling, “I need this stuff for my family. My grandchildren are starving, and you people aren’t honoring food stamps either. How are we supposed to live!” He angrily replies, “ma’am I’m sorry but I have a job to do, or else my family won’t eat either”. Before they could move her items to the side and put her out, Troy steps in and says, “I’ll pay for her stuff”. The woman snatches her arm out of the guard’s hold, runs over to Troy and hugs him saying, “muchas gracias, sir, muchas gracias! How can I ever thank you. If I can’t, then God will!” Troy smiles and says, “God bless you ma’am, and may he keep you safe!” “No, God bless you sir!”, she keeps saying it until her items are bagged and she exits the store. Troy pays for his own stuff and then leaves because the same scene with people not being able to
get their groceries is repeating itself over and over, and he knows he can’t save everyone.
It’s now seven fifteen in the evening and getting dark. Holding two grocery bags in each hand, Troy is contemplating if he’ll have enough time to brave the McDonalds two blocks over. Well, he thinks, he might as well try and he maps out his time frame. He has an hour and a half left before curfew and he’s six blocks away from the building. He knows he can jog back if push comes to shove. So he begins walking to McDonalds. When he gets there, he encounters a mad house scene that he couldn’t even imagine possible. Five police cars are pulled up to the fast food restaurant parked on the sidewalk and it seems like one is directly in front of the entrance doors. Several persons are laying on the ground face down, with their hands handcuffed on their backs, and cops frisking them and going through their pockets. Other police are breaking up multiple fights, and shoving people out of the restaurant. Troy watches a frustrated officer go to his patrol car, get on the loud speaker, and blasts, “all persons are to begin returning to your homes. I repeat, all persons are to begin returning to your homes. This is a direct order that is being enforced as of now! If you do not leave this area, you will be arrested!”
Someone shouts back, “it’s not curfew time yet! We need to eat! We should be able to get what we want”. The woman who said that is slammed to the ground, handcuffed and thrown into a patrol car. Troy is watching all of this in amazement. He starts to slowly back away, thinking there will be no fast food for them tonight. He turns around and walks back toward Asia’s parent’s apartment. There were police around when he first came out, but now there seems to be ten times more. There are at least four squad cars on every corner. He can see officers breaking up the lines and telling people to disperse and go home. And he realizes they have to clear the streets before curfew. This is the first time Troy is witnessing what happens when curfew rolls around in the city. He knew it must be chaotic, but this is overwhelming for him to see. He’s glad he didn’t allow Asia nor the
boys to come out with him. He guesses that his wife has seen similar incidents and he now empathizes with her. He doesn’t even want them to stay in the city anymore, but he knows he has to be patient and understanding, especially at this time. So he sighs and chokes it up just as many others are doing.
Asia is at the apartment door waiting for him when he returns. “Hon, I’ve been so worried about you!”, she says as she plants a kiss on her husband’s lips. He kisses her back saying, “I’m okay, Babe, how are you and the kids?” “We’re fine, we’ve been safe inside here. You were the one outside in that craziness”! “I know”, Troy says and sighs at the same time. He continues, “Asia, it’s real crazy out there! I don’t want you nor the boys going outside. I know you’ve already been experiencing this, but…….” He just trails off stopping in midsentence. Asia knows what her husband knows and feels what he feels. They are on the same page as usual, and she thanks God for this, prompting her to say, “Troy, I want to go back home”. He isn’t sure if he hears her correctly so he says, “what?!” “Let’s go back home tomorrow. My brothers can finish making the funeral arrangements, and anyway it’s not going to be until next week”. He is so elated that he picks her up and twirls her around. The boys come running to their parents laughing and joining in with them making everyone laugh, hug and kiss.
Ms. Sally stands there and watches them. Asia is watching her from the side of her eyes as she and her family show each other love. The lady neither smiles nor shows any compassion, she actually shows disdain for them. And Asia is starting not to like her, and she doesn’t like her own feeling. This makes her feel the de ja vu feeling, and it seems to be of the worst kind. Asia knows that the Lord wants her to love this lady whether she likes her or not and that she must at least try to. Troy’s finally able to bring the grocery bags into the kitchen and as he puts them down he asks, “what made you change your mind about not staying and going home tomorrow?” Once again, Asia catches Ms. Sally looking at her and replies, “I’ll tell you another time”. She unpacks the grocery items, puts them away, leaving out the peanut butter and
jelly she had Troy get. She makes everyone peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, even Ms. Sally. They all gobble up the sandwiches because they’re all hungry. At least, she thinks they all have a reason to be hungry except for Ms. Sally. She and Troy sleep in her dad’s bed that’s in the bedroom because the EMS crew took her mother’s bed away. And the boys sleep on the floor in sleeping bags they brought with them in the living room with Ms. Sally sleeping on her pullout sofa bed.