The three of us watch out the window as the world changes color – the blanket of brown leaves on my front yard, the field of yellow grass just beyond my neighbor’s porch, the black and gray shingles of a half-dozen rooftops – slowly fade to a brilliant, uniform white.
It looks like snow, but it’s ice. In the hours to come, the surface of our little bit of the earth will gradually become slick and impassable. And though we know we’ll soon be stuck in our house until the ice melts, for now, we just watch. The drone of sleet-fall against the roof sounds like shushing and makes me think the world is telling its noisy children to settle down.
It’s quite pleasant.
I have made a terrible discovery. Despite our best efforts to prepare for the havoc wreaked by Winter Storm Uri, we have neglected to stockpile one essential item … perhaps the most essential item.
We are running dangerously low on toilet paper.
Mandy tells me I shouldn’t be too concerned about the oversight. She believes the two complete and one partial roll that remain will be sufficient to keep us clean and refreshed until the thaw.
“We’ll just use the stuff sparingly,” she tells me. “Besides, if we get desperate, we can always use paper towels or rags.”
I suppress a shudder and pray we never get desperate.
Despite my best efforts to quell my family’s bodily functions, the three of us are still using the bathroom regularly.
My repeated calls to eighty-six Nos. 1 and 2 have not gone over well with my daughter and wife. The former seems unaware of the concept of restraint, and the latter – if the bludgeoning with toiletries she gave me after I followed her into the bathroom to monitor her usage was any indication – is actually resentful of the suggestion.
Everything I’m doing here, I’m doing for the love of my family. They might not appreciate it now, but in time, they’ll come to understand.
With my neighborhood streets being more ice than asphalt, I have decided to attempt walking to the store to purchase more toilet paper.
I have bundled up to brace against the cold – a long-sleeve tee and a hoodie, overcoat and scarf, knitted gloves and a knitted hat with earflaps and one of those puff balls at the top to help me locate it in a parking lot, my hardiest jeans and thickest socks and my trusty Doc Martens. I can barely move, but I am warm.
I’ll expect to report on my success in my next update.
HOUR 48, MINUTE 3
My expedition was a failure.
It started well enough. Upon opening the front door, I felt the blast of frigid air bite the sliver of skin I’d left exposed. I took a deep breath and mounted the first step of my front porch, ready for my sojourn into our icy world.
I immediately slipped and fell, injuring my leg. I crawled back inside and pushed the door shut with my back. I am defeated and disheartened.
Despite the vociferous protestations of my wife and child, I have confiscated the remaining supply of toilet paper and secreted it away. I shall distribute the remaining squares as I see fit, based upon complex calculations of my own design that account for time spent in the bathroom, nature of the evacuation and potential for discomfort and/or risk of infection.
I think this may work.
Know that I did not ask to be arbiter of the precious paper. But like many of history’s madmen-turned-heroes, I’ve had the role thrust upon me.
As I write this, I feel the eyes of my wife and daughter probing at me from every shadow, glaring at me at the edges of my periphery. I can hear them whispering. Planning. Plotting.
No matter. The paper is safe, and in time, they’ll come to respect what I’ve done. When this is over, and we can freely wipe again, they will praise me.
Until then, I’ll just sit and listen to the renewed purr of sleet-fall, letting it roll over me and hush every voice but its own.