Sunday, October 30, 2005

Wilma Was Here

There was a time when I thought I was indestructible.

I was young, idealistic. I'd ski down a wooded slope at a thousand miles per hour as if I could fly. I'd ice skate straight into a wall. And then, sometime in my late teens, I got scared. Scared of a lot of things. I started thinking about death and how easy it can come and suddenly faced with things I use to be able to do, I became paralyzed and unwilling to take physical risks. I remember being totally scared of being struck by lightning. I stayed indoors when it rained, usually.

But that fear diminished as I matured. I rollerblade in traffic now. I drive a little too fast.

And then I went through a hurricane.

It came fast. I slept through it. I stayed up the night before, laughing at the news people. By 1:00 am, it was not even raining. The wind was up and it was a nice change of pace. I went to sleep, content that we won't feel this hurricane at all just like the last two times in the last two months.

I remember being woken by my girlfriend a few times. I was cofeeless and half a sleep and couldn't register or respond to anything she said. I didn't hear a thing.

And so it was like something out of a movie that I woke up and suddenly everything had changed. There was a hammering thump next to my head. Everything was dark and quiet. My girlfriend appeared, sighing. We'd lost power. Outside was a mess of tree and roof. There was a piece of our roof dangling from the ceiling and threatening to plunge through our window.

"Shit," I said.

"I know." She smiled. "You should probably get up."

For the next hour or so, we avoided the window. We were sure it was going to break any second. But, not long after, we were laying in our bed staring at it, taking bets when it'd shatter.

Two days later, we still didn't have power. We put the piece of roof to rest in the graveyard with its brothers below. The world appeared to be a mess, and yet we were still around. We'd survived another one.

But this was different. Wilma was different. Like her sister, Katrina, she had attitude. A punch. Maybe it has something to do with their lack of use in the world's hurricane lexicon, especially with all "the good ones" up front, like Andrew and Betsy.

She was the size of a sea. A giant enemy out of a science fiction film. She battered Mexico in a vindictive way. She flung through Florida like a wild boar, eating anything it touched. She wasn't as powerful as some of the other players. She'll go down in history as a footnote to a larger disaster of the past (or the future) but from my vantage point, she seemed pretty damn strong. Stripped of the womb of modernity, I found myself confused. What do I do without my computer, my internet? My coffee? I recalled that fear I felt as a child thinking about death.

And then we got our power back. And everything returned to normal, except I felt different, changed in a slight, but important, way. I became more humble.

Our reality is fragile. We have electricity and Internet and cable and coffee machines and freezers and everything is fine and dandy. But nature is cruel. It can rob us of our comfortable life at a moment's notice. It's important to remember that.

Next time, we'll be better prepared. We'll have a cooler, batteries, flashlights, and chocolate. Next time I won't be afraid.

20 comments:

Shawn said...

I only felt that hurricane fear when it got dark (and of course during the actual storm). For some reason when the bright sun was shinning and the fresh air was blowing into the apartment, I felt very comfortable. But when darkness came over the city at night - and the candles were lit - I had this bad feeling.

I was talking to Danya during the storm and I told her that I never really knew fear before 9/11. I was always so brave and didn't second guess anything I did. But now I can't look at broken buildings or darkness or being alone or taking risks the same way. The fear has definetly changed me.

Christopher Barzak said...

Don't let the fear change you. That's what *they* want.

I am being vague about who *they* are on purpose.

Elad said...

the ironic part is i tried my best not to be taken in by the fear-mongering news media and their ridicilous week-long hurricane ratings fest. and so i didn't plan for Wilma at all and then was left with little supplies, no flashlight, just a lot of candles and thankfully, some marijuana.

Anonymous said...

damn. glad you guys are okay.

--zw

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Elad said...

thank you Stop Smoking Program! I appreciate your honest and humane praise!

Shawn said...

I wish I could not have changed -- too late - now in the process of being strong again

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