I frequently use writing prompts in my teaching and coaching. In fact, when the pandemic lockdown began in the Northeast, I had a regular weekly group and later developed a course under the umbrella of Prompted Expression. In the spirit of sparking my own creativity and getting ideas for my students and clients, I’ve decided to write from a prompt for seven consecutive days and share the results. The prompts are from a deck of cards called Actually Curious.
Writing Prompt Three: When was the last time you cried? What was it about?
About 4 a.m. on Friday I woke up and realized the heat was out in my apartment. This happens on occasion, so I just texted my landlord so he’d make the early call to the oil company. Typically, this means our oil tank needs a refill.
I went to sleep for a bit and then awoke, hoping it wouldn’t take them long to get here. That night we were expecting temperatures in the teens. There was snow on the ground, but the storm had finished the day before, so I knew the roads were pretty clear.
There was a bunch of texting among my neighbors (there are eight apartments in my building). I did my usual weight training routine, had some breakfast, and then launched this Prompted Expression Holiday Series with a blanket on my lap as I sat at my desk.
As afternoon drew near, I started getting nervous. Where is the truck? Every time I heard a vehicle with reverse beeps outside my window I jumped. It was starting to get cool. In normal times like this, I’d go to a café and work or read and ride it out, but not with COVID lurking around. The pandemic was also the reason I wasn’t about to sleep at someone’s house and put either of us in an awkward position.
Around 4:30 p.m., a technician arrived in a little van. Oh no, I thought, where is the oil truck? He came, assessed, and said the oil tank was empty. No kidding! Please, mister, please. Tell me that truck is on its way.
“We can refill it in the morning,” he said.
What? No! It’s going down to 17 degrees tonight.
Come to find out, the company took its trucks off the road because of icy conditions that evening. We were screwed, but I couldn’t exactly argue with keeping employees safe.
I texted some neighbors to ask if they had a space heater. My efficient little one was OK, but it wasn’t a match for rooms with 12-foot ceilings. One neighbor responded that he was near the hardware store — would I like him to buy me one? Yes, please!
He dropped it off and I excitedly opened the box, only to find that it was cracked. It was bad. No way could I use this heater safely. The store had already closed. OK, then, my heater was going to have to be The Little Engine that Could. That night I closed off my bedroom and snuggled in with the heater and iPad so I could occupy myself until I fell asleep.
I did OK, but when I got up the temperature in the rest of my apartment was bracing. It was 9:30 a.m. and I was awake. Now what? It was simply unlivable, down into the 50s by then (I had managed to maintain 61 degrees in the bedroom). As each minute ticked by, with each text exchanged with my landlord, I felt my inward panic. Would the oil truck get here today? I needed to know because I’d have to make a hotel reservation. No way I could stay home another night.
Didn’t I just have a conversation with some friends this week about being hardier? Did I qualify yet? What’s the standard, icicles coming out of my nose?
At approximately 12:30 p.m., I saw the huge tanker turn on to my block and I broke down in absolute sobs. I hadn’t realized how much I was holding in. I cried it out, then gathered myself and went down to the front door of the building where the guy was standing as the oil pumped into the tank.
“I don’t think anyone has ever loved you the way I love you right now,” I said.
He laughed heartily.
“People are usually happy when I show up,” he said.
By 1:30 p.m. the pipes began to get hot and the building started to make its way back to livable.
I quickly washed my face, put on some makeup, plugged in the lights on my Christmas tree, and jumped on a 2 p.m. Zoom holiday party for my part-time employer. By the time it wound down, the temp had made its way up to 63.
That night, still emotionally worn out, I took a steamy hot shower and tears formed again. I couldn’t stop thinking of the homeless. I still can’t.
Next up … read Day Four (of Seven).