I answer, tripping over the sheets in the tiny room as a low wind whistles through the half-open window. She is shouting, and I cannot make out any words. Impulses kick in as adrenaline chokes my ears.
"I got a perfect five!" She shouts, above the children on the playground.
"Woho." I say, and relax against a luggage bag.
"It was only two or three of us that got fives." She tells me, not shouting now.
"What subject?" I ask.
"Handwriting." She says.
"And remember how yours was not so good a few weeks ago?" I tell her. "But you did your homework."
"Pop, you don't have to tell me." She says, after a moment. "I know."
"Go play." I tell her. "I'll call you when it is morning here."
I slide the window down to just a crack and go back to bed.
The room phone rings. A message is left. The 7/11 around the corner will be open for two more hours if I want to buy sandwiches or a flashlight. N turns in her sleep, but does not wake.
I dress quietly, shoving the Leica in one pocket.
Outside the streets are as silent as I expected them to be, punctuated by police cars that drift around corners. The taxis are still hammering around, splashing and gunning their engines. I jaywalk every street, ignoring the lights. I go north first, and pass hundreds of boarded up windows and sidewalk delivery doors weighted down with plastic and sand bags. Balthazar is open, and the pastries are all fresh. I breathe in marzipan, and hot tea, chocolate and coffee. A smile plastered on my face, I thank them for being open, balancing my cappuccino in one hand, the almond croissants already shoved in the other pocket.
N would not want a cold coffee.
The wind returns making plastic sheets on a half-built building snap in angry bursts. The supermarket I walked fifteen blocks to is closed. I see empty shelves inside, a lone orange rests in the middle of an aisle. It looks like the set of a tv show, post apocalypse. A cop car sides up to me, as I stand out of the rain sipping already cold coffee.
"Jubilee on Broadway and Howard is open." The lady officer tells me.
The rain has died out. I wonder if N is waking up. I realize she would like tea more than anything else.
The streets are glowing in Chinatown. I smell smoke, wondering how a place could be on fire in this pre-hurricane hour. It is a storefront, a makeshift Buddhist temple burning incense. I see a woman moving behind my reflection in the windows. Everything is yellow.
I buy a bag of steamed pork buns on Mott Street, realizing this is exactly what I would be doing if I still lived here.
Kam Man is open, but half of the lights are off. I crane my neck, looking to see if people are at the registers. Two women are there, and they wave at me. One comes to the door, turning a key, asking what I am looking for.
"Tea." I announce.
"Tea downstairs." She says. "Hold on."
She fishes a flashlight out from behind the counter, and leads me down into darkness.
"If you have tea, then everything will be fine." I say.
She laughs a little, nodding her head.
The lights click on. I find a box of Earl Grey, and realize there are no cups in the room. I find two bowls, decorated with cranes and deer and a Santa Claus looking Buddha.
The pork buns taste magnificent, as the rain paints my face and the wind flips my collar around. I do go to Jubilee, and buy peanut butter and preserves, bottles of water, some ham, some bread, some mustard.
N is still sleeping.
I call E, and she chatters on and on about various doll characters. She shows me the page that has a big red five on it. She says she misses me, but that she is ok. I say the same. I tell her I found her a diary with a lock on it, just like she asked me to. I tell her about the storm, and how maybe the computer and the phones may not work for a day or so. She nods in silence, her chin twisted in thought.
"Be careful, Pop." She tells me.
"Ok." I say.
"Just take pictures from the windows." She explains.