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A Letter from a Hurricane Survivor

An Essay from a Failed Meteorologist, Hurricane Survivor, and Lamp Lover

It started out quaint. I had always done best alone, in my own little desert with my books and starry nights. I liked it that way, until I didn’t. I wanted to share my books and words with someone else, shine my trusty lamp light on my solo desert adventures late at night. But as I said, I liked it until I didn’t, so I went on an adventure to find a fellow desert island to share the books and stars with; and that’s exactly what I did.

I fell in love with him through laughter and stolen moments overlooking our star lit city. We found our definition of love through our long conversations, laying back in our cars and spouting theories over Mars. Quickly we went from crawling to an “us” to clamoring for the word, putting so much care and adoration into it. Our pasts were behind us, we were whatever may lay ahead—that is what mattered. Above us, however, we each had a cloud, one that wept with rain and cracked with the occasional thunder. Our clouds were both grey, but not the same. His would pour even when the sun shone bright all around. Mine would rumble even when the sky was calm. We were not meteorologists, and we knew that. We established earlier on we didn’t know what we were doing individually, but together we could try and navigate through the weather. We thought, I thought, that this was the most grown up choice in the world. We had an understanding, and mutual understanding, like meteorology, was new to me.

Things carried on. The winds of change brought new hurdles. Hs cloud poured on me endlessly, leaving me drenched in all the wrong ways. I felt like buying an umbrella might protect me, sure, but what about him? My heart broke knowing his mind was in a state of storm, making it hard for me to fathom protecting myself from his nature when he himself couldn’t escape it. So, I hung up my umbrella and took his hand. I stood in the rain with him for days, then weeks. I quickly realized we were cohabitating in a rain forest, and that I didn’t have any rainboots. Up to my ankles in water however I stood, nonetheless. I adapted instead. I began to think of sunny days as “sun shower days” and the storms as “passing phases.” My own stormy nature went dormant, and I thought “ah, peace.” How I confused the definitions of peace and distraction so flippantly I will never know, but I do know now that that was not the only confusion.

Our rainforest was not a swamp. It began to grow lush, with love and care given to every seedling that sprouted. I was not perfect. I was forgetful at times. My clothes were heavy with water and so I dragged a bit, unaccustomed to the new weight in my life—but I wore the clothes proudly. I wore them with love, with what I thought was the beginning of a relationship with understanding, and meteorology. I had my lamp for light when the storms passed through a dark night and was always sure to share my umbrella, even give it to my lover if he got even a drop too wet.

It all came to a halt, though, the night of the hurricane. Blowing in at the end of an oddly tranquil day, as I lay in bed after hours of enjoying a sun showery day, the climate shifted. All throughout the day I had said how perfect it had been, both aloud and to him. I had picked flowers, and so had he. We’d tended to our forest and even made plans for expansion. However, I had warned, we had to pace ourselves and be careful. Things were lovely now, the garden was growing, but what would we do if a baby sapling sprouted in this midst of this? We hadn’t the climate to nurture a sapling in a rain forest, or the slightest clue how to nurture this very forest. We needed to enjoy what we had, plan for the future, and not take one before we were ready. My lover agreed. That is, until the hurricane swept in.

When the hurricane hit, my lover grabbed me. Suddenly, after weeks of myself navigating through the storms, he was in charge. He knew what was needed in the veil of that horrible night, insisted even he could “handle it,” the storm. He told me no when I said no myself, insisting so much that he knew best. I pushed him that night, trying desperately to stop him from leading us too far, so far, away from where we had been. But he didn’t listen. I begged him not only because it didn’t have to happen—the hurricane didn’t have to sweep us away—but because he wasn’t being careful. We agreed we’d always be careful, and he wasn’t keeping up his part of the agreement... in more ways than one. He grabbed my hands and dragged me along the path he randomly decided on. I had no choice in the matter, no say. I was along for this new stormy ride. The hurricane lasted for quite some time, or at least it always will to me. Storm survivors apparently always think that way, always relive their hurricanes.

After the storm, things changed. My cloud, once dormant, now overpowered me with its own erratic behavior. It poured, it rumbled so loud it shook the ground beneath me, and it snowed almost exclusively all at the same time. All I really remember is the cold, the confusion. Suddenly my understanding of understanding was morphing into something unknown again, and I forgot what meteorology was all together.

Time moved differently after that. The lush forest became a dank, dark swamp after all. I suddenly couldn’t get my lamp to turn on, and my lover was too drenched in his own rain to think to share my umbrella with me. I couldn’t blame him, though. I was in a fog. I was a mess after the hurricane; but of course, so was he. He felt terrible for leading us so far from what could have been a home. Each day that passed there was an apology not for the storm, not for him not heeding my warnings and pleads during the storm, but for the rain. Not the storm. For the rain. My wounds from that night were never considered, how damaged I had been after a night in his hurricane. Not by him, but not by me either. I knew that whenever I saw wounds I grew squeamish, and I was too lost to afford to be faint. So, we pushed on. I pushed us on.

Until, that is, my cloud sort of dissipated. It turned into wisps, with not enough strength to it to even combine into its usual, burly frame. The sun broke through, though, just a tad. I saw a light again, one different than my once trusted lamp always with me. It wasn’t much, but it was just enough to stop me in my muddy tracks. My lamp stopped working when I entered the swamp. I found myself in a swamp after living in a hurricane destined rain forest. I moved to the rainforest to escape a desert. My desert. Why? I don’t know. My cloud only vanished long enough for me to realize all of this before it came back, leaving me with new, bone chilling thoughts and a single choice. I still do not know why I went into the storm knowingly.

What I do know is I left the swamp that day. I grabbed my umbrella, my lamp, and retreated back to my desert. My lover’s thunderous rain booming all around me as I did so; but it didn’t stop me. Did I stumble under the weight of the rain, the guilt that had woven into my clothes? Yes. But I shed my drenched threads, held my umbrella a little closer and my lamp a little higher. I made it back to my desert despite whatever storm cloud I passed, despite whatever my own cloud crackled with above me. Day by day, I made it back to my own, familiar dry land. My soaked to the bone, barren, muddy feet made the dirt under me a little soft. I stumbled more than ever, wobbled in my own domain. But I made it back.

With time, I found some clothes. I preferred raincoats exclusively now, and almost always traveled in my rainboots. I researched energy more than ever, insistent my lamp’s light would never die ever again. Paper and pen became my lover, a lost love I had long ago forgotten. With that love I found myself adapting again, trying to grow into my new lover. Words were so vital to our relationship, so I added a dictionary to my set list of necessities. I grew to better grasp how to describe things, from the sky above me to the ground below. My new lover, the very art of words, taught me things I thought I already knew. Rekindling the flame with literature re-taught me understanding. I understood I couldn’t understand it all. I understood I couldn’t predict the weather too—and that wasn’t my fault. And, while I may be learning to deal with my own cloudy life, I cannot and will not ever be able to control another’s climate. Nor do I want to.

If none of this made any sense, what is important to know is this: I survived a hurricane. I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew, from simple things like the difference in the definition of self-peace and self-distraction. I am not a meteorologist. I am not a rainforest woman, either. I prefer the desert. I prefer my surroundings controlled, survivable, and safe. I will never again enter the eye of a fucking storm. I’ll go to a movie, like a normal person. And no one will ever drag me anywhere again, including down to a swamp.

I’ll stick to dry land, solo hands holding my books, and my very own, blinding lamp.