not long after he arrived safely back at the university place condos, the sky began to grow heavy and the red blobs on the television screen began working their way toward the blob that represented university place condos and thereabouts. we listened to the news anchor pose the question: "what should you do if you live in a second story apartment." and we listened to the other news anchor answer: "whatever you do, you certainly DO NOT want to be in a second story apartment!"
that cut our conversation short about whether the bedroom closet or the kitchen was the best place to hide from a tornado.
not long after that, i began to hear the faint whine of the tornado siren. for those of you outside tornado alley, that means bad news comes your way. which meant that it was time for my nerves to begin misfiring and for my legs to begin pacing and for my words to begin spinning wildly from my mouth alternating quickly from nervous to purposefully calm to wildly angry. i knew i didn't want to spend these special moments in ann's apartment, so i began evaluating the merits of sitting downstairs in the foyer next to an exterior wall. that's when brian said: "let's go to joann's." and i said: "okay." and then my legs started twirling in ellipses trying to decide if it was acceptable to wear pink capri pajama pants and a white tank top with no bra underneath a black jacket during a tornado visit. then my legs took me to apply some lip gloss to masquerade my herpes better because i would feel silly if we went to visit and the tornado didn't come after all. then i would just be filled with fashion faux pas and would be ridiculed by the residents of university place.
brian's three cats were ushered into the closet in LR2 and left to fight amongst themselves over the two remaining squared feet of floorspace in there while i plucked ttyki from the windowsill in the bedroom and tossed her in one of the most revered spaces: the master closet. but oskar, well... oskar might not look bright, but he knows how to sniff out fear and my sing-songy tone trying to inject an elixir of please-don't-pee-just-go-in-the-closet-i
by this time, i was wearing my trusty urban commando pants and a pink t-shirt. off we went across the courtyard to knock on joann's sliding glass door. her husband, robert, answered. i thought about running away when he announced joann was in east texas on a church trip. we don't really know robert. but we were still afraid of running into a tornado so in we went. robert sat back down in his easy chair while brian and i plopped down on the floor with oliver and a bucket of toys. the weather was on the big-as-day television behind us and i craned my neck trying to find out if we were about to die. i wasn't feeling too good still sitting in the exterior room with the sirens going off, but robert looked pleased as punch to be entertaining socially. it was as if he thought we had dropped by for sunday tea and crumpets. whatever those are.
so he chatted with us about a decades old tornado as he reached for the remote and turned off that pesky volume. i nearly passed out with anxiety as that red blob began hooking its tornadic arm around our neighborhood's waist. holy hell! robert asked us each where we were from. i told him tyler. "so you're from grand prairie?" he asked me moments later. we were beginning to realize that a handful of robert's peas were no longer mixed in with his carrots. he also told us how his grandfather owned the first filling station in dallas and how he hadn't believed him and then felt super shitty when he saw it was true on some documentary and then took irises to his grandfather's grave to apologize. brian asked how many grandchildren robert has. robert chuckled and said he had no idea.
it was about that time that i saw some little purple circles that a meteorologist had drawn all over the red blob. what was that purple circle doing over us?! i gave one of those looks to brian and he hopped up, found the remote, and turned the sound back up while i suggested again that maybe we should be in a different room. but there was no stopping robert. *ping* i mentioned i could hear hail hitting the chimney cap. robert mentioned it was an upstairs neighbor. *PONG* oh wow, i think that might be hail, i tried again. robert thought about 1962.
to get things on the road, the electricity snapped off. i took the opportunity to start directing traffic to the dining area. i found some matches and candles while brian followed robert to god knows where using his cell phone as a flashlight. they came back with a mighty flashtorch. robert just couldn't understand why on earth we were sitting down in the dining room and he thought it was simply the most curious thing and wouldn't we rather go sit by the window looking out on to the street? he couldn't remember the storm for long enough, nor the fact that the lights were off for a reason. but he chuckled every time he tried to turn a lamp back on.
we fancy that perhaps he was a rather jocular fellow in his day what with the quips that kept spilling from his lips like: "the lights are off! don't anybody take off their clothes!" whoa... hahaha. or my personal favorite, regarding the baby (who obviously looks much like a girl as indicated by his preference for feminine pronouns): "we haven't had anything that cute in here since the last time i took off my underpants!" whoa.... [LET'S GO AS SOON AS IT STOPS RAINING TORNADOES BE DAMNED].
robert insisted on getting us drinks. i lucked out with just water since i insisted i needed nothing, but brian, that fool, he said okay and found in his fist a glass with 90% gin and 10% tonic. so the men settled in with their drinks (brian's quickly found its way to the sink) and i settled into accepting we were more likely to die there than back home so i went ahead and stood by that window trying to get oliver to stop shrieking. on my way into that front room, i had also noticed that robert's front door was ajar. so i closed and locked it as he asked us if we lived upstairs. i began to suspect robert might have no idea who we were and i began to feel more creeped out over the next 24 hours about how we had stormed this man's house and lit all his candles. i reminded him we lived upstairs across the courtyard and he said: "oh yeah... that's the baby we always see in the window." both joann and robert have ways of making statements to us that let us know we are being closely watched by the eyes of the bored. robert also mentioned how he sees brian leave for work every morning. then brian mentioned how robert probably sees me walking around without my top on, but he waited until later to say that.
robert told us that joann was out of town and i responded that oh yeah... she's on a church trip. "well, how did you know that!" he asked, genuinely surprised. i didn't have the heart to tell him he had already told us, so i proceeded to dig myself a hole by saying: "oh, well, uh, i just guessed. i mean, i know you guys go to church and all, right?" perhaps that's what later made him ask if we were disciples. "oh yeah, i grew up methodist." i left out the part about since becoming an atheist and tried to avoid looking at brian who would probably rather light himself on fire than ever even pretend to be a disciple.
so it stopped raining and the third round of sirens ceased and i called my father who looked at the weather and expertly told us the worst was past. we played that baby card and told robert it was time to put oliver down for the night. i offered to blow out some of the candles in hopes that i would blow out whichever candle might be most likely to set all our homes on fire, but robert gave a hoot and an oh-no letting me know it would be just plain crazy to sit around in the dark. robert walked us to the sliding glass door and, as the three of us stood on the porch being lightly doused with raindrops under a lightning-lit sky, robert peered out at us and said: "do you know how i met joann?"
"well, then," admitted my mind, "we really are just going to die out here, but that's no excuse for being rude." my mouth said: "why no, we don't." fortunately, robert does still have one thing going for him: he tells a quick story. and the moral of the story about meeting joann was, ironically, that she's the talker.
so we finally began scurrying through the rain, looking back over our collective shoulder to see robert's sad face still looking out through the opening of the glass door like anybody's great grandmother at the end of a bi-monthly visit knowing this is the moment that is the farthest from the next visit.
we climbed our stairs and i peered back out our window to make sure he wasn't still looking after us only to see him dawdling down the sidewalk toward the parking lot. "holy hell! he's walking through the courtyard!" i crossed to the other side of our condo. "holy hell! he's driving away!" it was true. robert was at least 75 and driving away on half a tank of alcohol and a whole tank of alzheimer's. during a tornado.
brian and i sat with the baby in the dark with some candles and beers and limes until i piped up and said i couldn't live like animals any longer with a baby deprived of his electronic stories and that there was a radio and some semblance of normalcy out in the car so we loaded up for a drive to mai's vietnamese for take out. we listened to reports of the four tornadoes that had touched down in the metroplex including a near miss for one woman reported as saying: "i seen it coming! i seen it coming! i grabbed the kids and the ainamals and we hunkered down in the hallway!" we were later graced with her visuals on the tv when we returned home to electricity, five vegetarian imperial rolls, and two orders of mild #72 tofu in coconut curry sauce.