How Hurricane Irma Completely Changed My Perspective On Time

hurricanes
Joao Nascimento

I find myself clutching my phone with a death grip, willing it to vibrate. The recipient of my frustration, a gorgeous guy with an easy smile and words inked all over his skin, is taking too damned long to text me back and I grow angrier at him. Finally, my phone screen lights up:

“We’re always really busy, and I can see how this is bothering you. Maybe we should stop seeing each other.”

I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding I tap my nails against the back of the phone, thinking, and then type the first thing that comes to mind:

“Thank god! I don’t think I could’ve done this for much longer.”

The thing is, I liked him. I liked him a lot; he was the best thing that had happened to me in a while. Smart, funny, sexy, with deeply ingrained family values and always involved with the community; the type of guy you would take home to meet your parents but also have passionate, filthy sex with. But what I liked best about him was this: Whenever I was around him, the angry voice shouting at me “move move move don’t stop move” seemed to just, for one blessed minute, shut up.

The post-breakup dismay inevitably hits me, but he is right: both of us have our own lives and little space for anything else. A relationship is just something neither of us want enough to change the status quo.

(Or so I tell myself.)

I politely thank him for the courtesy, he wishes me luck in my endeavors. It’s all very business-like. I put my phone to charge and go to bed, slightly annoyed, slightly sad, but already thinking of everything I must do tomorrow.

Two days later, as I come home from work, it happens:

“Hurricane Irma… a very powerful Hurricane 4 storm… set to head straight to Florida… possible state of emergency…”

It is like a bomb falling in the middle of my living room, and I am caught right in the middle: fear, disbelief, surprise, all whirling around in my head like the winds that threaten to harm us.

The next two days are a blur: I shovel sand into bags, move rocks and flower pots out inside so they won’t be blown away, move my old mattress to block the large living room windows in case they shatter. I pack an overnight bag with all my textbooks and class notes; I pack a book, even a deck of cards because the thought of not having anything to do, even during a natural disaster, scares me. I text my friends the requisite “We’re okay, where are you going to pass the storm? You have water?” platitudes.

I am a dirty, sweaty, strung out mess, and busier than ever; and secretly, I love every second of it.

The storm is set to pass over us overnight, and my family and I set up camp in a relative’s apartment. We huddle in front of the TV and… wait.

The waiting—that’s the hardest part, but no one ever tells you that. The entire city holds its breath as we watch the colorful diagram slowly move further up the map and the newscasters stand right on the street, wind and water buffeting them like rag dolls, shout that standing outside during the storm is too dangerous, don’t do it. Even that, eventually, is taken from us as the electricity in the apartment sputters once, then completely goes out.

And suddenly, unable to read a book, my laptop dead on the dining table because I stupidly forgot to charge it, and my phone battery too precious to squander it with a mindless game of Candy Crush, I find myself with too much time in my hands.

It’s torture. My mind shoots off in all directions, aimless, searching for any kind of stimulus.

(move move move don’t stop move!)

I think of the guy who momentarily held my attention, the one I parted amicably enough yet I hadn’t bothered to check up on. Did he evacuate to a shelter? Is he prepared for the hurricane? Did he manage to get water on time or did he have to pay an outrageous price for a pack of 12 bottles?

I wonder, had we waited just one week before breaking things off, could we have taken those moments the hurricane stole from us and spent them in each other’s arms? Could we had set our own lives aside for one evening and just allowed ourselves to be?

Is such a thing even in his nature? In mine?

The thing is, I would’ve tried, if he’d asked: my commitments, his own plans; and the small, furtive moments in between that left me wanting so much more than what we could give each other.

I would have convinced myself that it could be enough.

He knew that too, I think. He knew that I’d bleed out for him and for everyone else, and offered me this small mercy lest I take too many knives into my soft belly in an attempt to stop the hemorrhage.

And I, in the middle of the night, get irrationally angry at him for being the bigger person and stepping away when he did, saving us both grief and time. But mostly, I am angry because now that he’s not around my mind swirls with disjointed, persisting thoughts that just won’t go away. Time. Time that seems to slip away from my fingers.

I allow myself to mourn what we could have been, and the pain that comes with meeting the right person when neither of you have time.

Because the truth is there is so much I haven’t done, and I am the only one who can do them all. And whoever wants to be with me must understand that.

Sometimes, what keeps you away from those you care for is the very same thing that moves you forward.

And I am done staying still for someone who will not willingly offer me the gift of their time. TC mark

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