I’ve already openly admitted to not knowing a god damn thing about relationships. Even after the year-plus I’ve had with the same man through a myriad of circumstances, including a now long-distance arrangement, I still have no idea what I’m doing. At all.
Yet, somehow, we prevail.
Even after sitting through a category 4 hurricane in a boarded up condo with no electricity and no running water for 4 days following the storm.
The day Hurricane Matthew descended on Freeport, GB, I’d come to terms with what I was about to endure. I had no idea what to expect, but I felt like I was in the safest location I could be, with people I trusted and with someone I felt infinitely safe with.
Heavy rain and wind started around midday, and by late afternoon the gusts were so strong it was difficult to stick my head outside (because while I was petrified I was also extremely curious as I watched large palm trees bend and sway as if they were made of boiled spaghetti noodles). The sound of wind plowing into the boarded up windows will stay with me for quite some time. Low relentless and unsettling the wind raged for what must have been the better part of 10 hours.
We lost power around 4:30pm on Thursday, October 6th. As the lights flickered then died, something in me sparked to life: a deep but quickly rising panic. Using our still-charged cell phones we lit a few candles and prepped flashlights for bathroom runs. We also poured a hurricane shot (the first of many) of caffeine-laced Patron (a drink I truly never want to have again).
As I nervously perched myself on the loveseat listening to exterior objects bending, breaking, smashing, and moving, a familiar outstretched arm and an inviting chest welcomed me, comforted me and calmed me. Resting my head on his chest I could instead focus on the rhythmic beat of a heart I trusted and loved instead of the uncertain and chaotic sounds raging outside our boarded-up windows.
Often, it’s the smallest gestures that have the largest impact. I used to think this was a horribly cliched thing to say, but I’ve come to realize this is very, very true. Words are meaningless and empty if not backed up by actions. A hand caressing a nervously twitching foot; the brushing back of wild hair that’s been shaken loose from earlier explorations outside in the wild, wild wind; a stolen kiss before venturing into the darkness for a drink or a bathroom break, just to let me know he cares… in those moments I needed all of that more than he might ever realize.
I also needed the companionship and distraction while Hurricane Matthew raged outside.
Before the storm really started to rage, the boys pointed out that our balcony door plywood doors had a perfectly placed and sized knot in the wood that could, potentially, be knocked out as a peephole. We, the rational females, vehemently disagreed and argued that it would weaken the protection of the plywood and should not be done.
A few hours into isolation and about 4-5 glasses of wine in, and I think I personally handed the boyfriend the hammer myself to knock out the knot and offer us a glimpse into the world of Hurricane Matthew and what was happening (with a step, of course, so my minuscule self could actually see out the opening).
For the first time, as a writer, I’m truly at a loss of words to describe what it was like to sit through the seemingly endless hours of Hurricane Matthew. To tell you what it sounded like. What it felt like. The thoughts going through my brain. The emotions.
Let me use a few choice adjectives/nouns/words: Nightmare, dream, hell, terror, panic, unknown, petrified, terror, horror, disbelief, amazement, shock, thrill, anxiety, high, illusion, panic.
That night — with Hurricane Matthew raging outside our building — could have gone one of two ways; I was either going to prevail, and be OK (likely rather drunk in order to deal with it all) or I was going to end up curled up in a ball in the corner of the washroom bawling my eyes out in sheer fear and panic.
That night, when we finally retired to our respective rooms, I was most definitely pleasantly buzzed.
Wine.Beer. Caffeine Patron. It had all been consumed, and often, as the winds increased in speeds, and the deafening sounds raged on. Drinking became the best way to deal. The method with which I diluted the seriousness and scariness of it all.
Laying in bed, windows boarded up, zero air moving in the room, and the temp hovering at likely close to the 40-degree Celsius mark, all I wanted was to be held. And he knew that. Or maybe he wanted to be close too.
Perhaps it was a case of both being fragile, unknowing and petrified at what was happening outside our boarded up bedroom window. Despite the heat and sweat, we wrapped ourselves up together as close as we could get that night. Held tight. Breathed deep. Supported. I focused on his breathing, his heartbeat, and his presence as the hurricane beat down on the condo around us outside, and I’d like to think he did the same for me. Fingers intertwined we melted into each other (quite literally). Nothing needed to be said. Nothing voiced. We knew. We felt. We understood.
I woke to the sound of birds. Birds and silence. No light. Not breeze. No indication that it was morning, daylight. But birds. I heard creatures and not terrible, soul-wrenching howling wind.
Prodding the body beside me, I implored him to hear what I did. Yes. Birds. Stillness. The storm had passed.
Jumping out of bed in, essentially, what we’d gone to sleep in, we rushed to clamber into a car, blissfully untouched by the storm, and explore the island. What was left of it. What was tangible. What was real.
You know when you wake up in the morning and have that foggy, gooey stuff in your eyes, that stuff you can’t blink away? I felt like that was how I spent most of that first day after Hurricane Matthew. Blinking away the fog. Trying to clear my vision, to comprehend that what I was seeing was, indeed, real life. All of it.