In 2005 Hurricane Wilma roared through Cuba, Mexico and Florida before heading north to fade into oblivion over the cold North Atlantic. It brushed past us, as many of the big storms do. That night I decided to take a walk with Wilma. Recently I found the story I had written of our time together. So I thought I’d post it here.
Leaves of orange dotted with mouldy brown dart across the fading grass. The wetness of the last few weeks is killing the normally bright colours in the grip of rot. A few dried leaves still hang from baring branches overhead as they rattle in the night wind. Wilma will not be a stealthy intruder, she will be heard.
I look down the dark street, empty of life; an occasional home gives off light of a pale orange. Bulbs of Halloween colours have replaced the bright whites of the summer’s centennial celebrations that held sway during those warm months of green.
I see one house, lit brightly from within as light pours out nearly every window and I start to smile. The house then plunged into darkness and a door slams. A melancholy caresses my heart as I seem to be more aware of the transience of things once considered permanent. Then, in an instant, the lights are back. Only to vanish once more seconds later. I start to imagine, wondering what must be happening within those walls, why the lights keep going off and on, why the indecision, but before I can consider the idea a car pulls into that very driveway and leaving it running, the driver gets out and very heavily starts knocking on the now dark house, over and over. As I round the corner I glance back over my shoulder and the house is once again alight and the driver is still knocking on the door.
I start walking up hill and Wilma chills me with a cold touch across the back of my neck. This will not be a warm storm like Rita and Ophelia, this one seems to be sucking all heat from the air to feed itself, threatening to leave us its discards of snow. I jump as I pass a street light that throws my shadow ahead of me making me thing for a moment I am being passed by a phantom, eager to be home out of the wind and into the heat. That such a creature of shadow can only exist because of the light conflicts me.
A tall then hooded figure in black and orange stands at the end of a driveway, face hidden and back turned to the wind. Wisps of grey smoke drift from the shadows of the hood only to be snatched away by the lady in the storm. The smoker ignores me as he seems to be watching the man in the house putting up curtains at midnight.
My sneaker scuffs on an uneven piece of sidewalk, just before I reach a new pad. Graffiti covers the recently poured cement. A list of who loves who. I wonder if who will still be loving who tomorrow, or next week, next month, or next year. I walk on wondering what percentage of lovers inscribe in concrete will be able to stand on the same spots fifty years hence and look down to read, hand in hand, there names enduring as long as there love? I suspect Wilma has the answer but she’s not telling as she laughs in the darkness dancing among the branches swaying overhead.
It is midnight.
A wave of vehicles speed past me eager to be home from whatever job just released them. Their drivers, with hours punched and bosses endured, have minds set on things that are hot, a cup of tea, a bubble bath, a cozy bed, an eager partner. I wonder if any even notice me walking there and if they do will any remember. Does Wilma recall the child she frightened in Cuba, the business man who store windows she smashed in Mexico. The newlyweds whose first home she flooded with storm surge in Florida. No, she is just as eager to rush off into the darkness of the North Atlantic as these workers are to get home.
Alas, poor Wilma will not find the warmth of home that the rest of us will tonight. For out there, over the frigid emptiness of the desolate land of swells and waves, Wilma will tire and die. Not suddenly, in a rage as she was birthed over a week ago, but a slow fading; fury subsiding; drained by cold, chilled into complacency; she will weaken, falter, and finally surrender to the ocean from which she came.
She knows what’s awaiting her out there in the darkness. She knows, and fights the inevitable. She doesn’t want to die.
But she will.
A sudden surge of wind whips past me as Wilma screams in defiance. She knows tomorrow she will be gone, like the rotting leaves; the centennial lights; the colours of Halloween when the snow falls.
She will be gone and people will still be turning on lights, knocking on doors, jumping at shadows, smoking in driveways, adjusting curtains, inscribing their love and ending each day with a rush to be home, but she will be gone.
The wind suddenly stills and the sound of a distant streetlight buzzing is all that remains in the night. Wilma has made her peace. She has accepted her fate. Her time is done. She lets go.
A single drop of rain falls on my lip; a good bye kiss, and a thank-you, for sharing her company in her final hours.
And with a last sudden surge, she is away.