I was going to title this “Back” but I can’t know that. It is only this moment, this ten twenty-nine p.m. moment of July 26th, while I listen to the thunder rolling over the hills in the distance like some lumbering cannon coming ever closer, and feel finally a cooling breeze that would bring the body back from the fringes of hell, that I can know. Today the thermometers in Salies hit 39º C in the shade (ahhh, I hear the drops beginning to fall while the thunder grumbles incessantly in the background), so in the sun it must have been closer to 44º C.
A few minutes ago, upon finishing an e-mail, I was about to close down the computer when the voice in my head started writing. It has been so long, a month before my trip was the last published blog which makes it two and a half months at least without writing. So much has happened since. There is actually no explanation for my not writing: I just didn’t feel like it. Every time the thought that I should be publishing another blog crossed my mind, something deep inside would shrink and I would click open a game of Scrabble, tune into a movie or simply watch the next chapter of “Lost”, my new addiction…
As I was writing the previous sentence, the storm hit full on with a force so frightening I leapt from my chair and raced to close all the windows; the bathroom door slammed shut from the gale before I could close that one; then I ran back to the living room and stood as far from the windows as possible, shaking and ready to throw myself upon the floor if the force of the wind should break the glass. Lightning struck nearby, the lights went out, and in the darkness there was nothing but the monster storm. I groped around in the kitchen looking for a candle and a match with Salomé close at my heels. The storm was beating like crazy on all sides of the house. I have windows that look out on the East, the West and the North and there was rain streaming down all the windows which meant that the wind was swirling around, coming from every which way. It is difficult to describe the force with which the storm hit the building. I wondered for a moment if the top floor where my apartment is was going to be blown off.
Only one time before do I remember experiencing a wind of this intensity: Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. My husband and I and the children were vacationing in a beach house in Akumal, south of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula when hurricane warning began coming over the radio. With the help of the handyman who lived on the property, we crisscrossed the windows with sticky tape and put all loose objects underneath the heavier furniture. Then we took off in the car heading inland to a place called Cobá. There, we requested shelter in a small hotel near some Mayan ruins surrounded by jungle. There was one room left and they allowed us to have it, but we were not the last to arrive. Soon people from the coast began coming inland searching for shelter and the hotel was obliged to allow them into the hallways and public areas. By the time the storm hit, it was a Category 5 hurricane. The roar of the swirling winds was unbelievable. We were told to stay clear of windows and to avoid opening any doors as the force of the wind was liable to burst through the pane of glass if we did. I couldn’t, however stop looking through the window at what was happening outside: a tree nearby whose diameter was at least a meter twenty, trembled violently and then was lifted, roots and all, and carried ten meters to be dumped onto the tennis courts. The parabolic antenna and the cement block which held it to the roof came flying off and ended up in the swimming pool.
The hurricane carried on its terrifying destruction for about twenty minutes and then stopped. The silence was thick and heavy as we entered the eye. We were told that we had ten minutes to move about and then the hotel would be boarded up again for the second half. Outside everything was silence and destruction; even the birds and insects were silent: they knew. Leaves and trees and branches and anything that the herculean force could move had been moved and strewn wherever. Our car, fortunately, was intact. We gathered the provisions of food brought from the house and moved them into the room. Then we sat through the second twenty minutes of howling murderous winds and beating rain. The force with which the wind hit tonight reminded me of that experience. Now it has subsided; I have reopened the windows I so hurriedly shut. Outside the night has cooled immensely. The street is strewn with leaves and branches, and the large plastic barriers set up to mark street works have ended up scattered here and there in the middle of the avenue. The night is quiet again except for an occasional car that passes. In a moment, when I have finished this piece, I will go into the street and, if I can, move the plastic barriers off of the avenue to the side where they won’t endanger passing vehicles. Now that the storm has moved on, perhaps to frighten other women who face its dark forces alone in second story apartments, I am grateful for its beauty, for its awe-inspiring force and for the coolness it has brought, and for the fact that the storm loaned me a memory with which to fill this new verbal vignette.