My mother will tell me recipes over the phone like: put the rice in 4 times as much water as normal. Put the yams in. Boil, then simmer for hours. I never know how much, or when, or whether or not to peel the yams. Do you halve them, quarter them, dice them. How many hours do you mean by hours. Do I add salt or what.
Maybe this is why I am constantly searching for a more exact recipe in life. I won’t find it; I already know this. But still I sit erect from moment to moment like a strange animal: wide-eyed, expectant, pawing at the darkness.
I remember growing up in Westbury where the streets flood whenever there is a storm. The water would creep into the mufflers, and our cars would cough and choke and stop. We would crawl out of the windows and wade home through brown, sludgey sidewalk rivers. My grandmother carried me on her shoulders once. We’d feel safe once we arrived in the yellow house, the rain sliding down the bay windows. There would be leaves and branches and dirt sticking to us, but we took for granted that the water would never make it in.
Today I imagine the hurricane rains pouring into the windows of the house I grew up in, the windows of the houses my friends grew up in. What recipe asks for this much water? Did some god receive vague, relative instructions for making something?
My mother is at the house alone, like she has been for most of the past decade since we all left for school. My father, insisting to be at the office like he has for most of the past three decades since I’ve been alive, even as unprecedented tornadoes attempted pirouettes in Texan backyards.
I suppose there isn’t an exact recipe to surviving, much less living. But it’s times like these that it doesn’t matter whether you halve or quarter the yams. Salt or no salt. Friends from all around the world have messaged, asked about how we are doing. Friends with boats have posted open calls to anyone needing rescue. Friends with dry homes and water supplies and board games have publicly invited anyone who needs shelter.
There is no power, but there are candles. We paw at the darkness, together, finding our way.