Earl and Gloria

As Earl churns his way towards the Eastern Seaboard, states from South Carolina to Maine are on high alert, watching for signs of impeding stormy doom. The local newscasters have compared the preparations to those of twenty-five years ago, when Hurricane Gloria roared through.

In September of 1985, I was in the middle of a whirlwind of my own making. Gainfully employed, I was still making financially unsound decisions, racking up huge credit card debts at the ripe age of 19. Granted, I lived in a cheap, run-down apartment and I drove an old car, so my expenses were otherwise low. I also had a sugar daddy, of sorts.

I was involved with a man that I barely knew, but who made a great deal of money as a fisherman. AJ would be out at sea for seven to ten days, and then swoop in, unannounced, to my shabby place and take me out shopping, dancing, drinking, and lots of sex’ing. It wasn’t the healthiest of relationships, and a lot of bad stuff happened in later months between me and AJ, but in September we were still pretty new to each other, and tolerant of the faults.

As Gloria approached, the boats of the harbor moored up, rather than ride the storm out at sea. AJ invited me to ride along on the Grey Lady as she was moved from the offload facility to the protection of the dry dock. It was the first, and only, time I was on one of those huge fishing vessels (think The Deadliest Catch) and I loved every minute of it. AJ got one of the other crew members to loan me their oilskins, those yellow coats and pants, so I would even look the part.

Once AJ’s job on the boat was finished, a bunch of us piled into a car and drove out to Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth. The storm had started to build up by this time; the winds were whipping the waves into a froth, and the sound of water crashing onto rock was deafening. The wind was so strong, we may as well have been paper dolls.

Laughing, we grabbed the corners of our oilskins, one in each hand, and held them out like bat wings. We leaned forward, into the wind, eyes closed, oblivious to the sting of the salty spray. We jumped… and then we flew.

I can’t help but smile now, as interviewed tourists complain of ruined vacation plans and governors declare states of emergency. Hurricanes are dangerous, to be sure. Gloria wreaked havoc when she came through; Earl certainly has potential. But every whirlwind, no matter how dangerous, will also have its thrills. Storms with bright centers, and dangerous wraparounds. I learned that with Gloria. I eventually learned that with AJ, too.

Waiting on the Gods

Ashanti and Mirou were sitting in the warm afternoon sun, combing long strands of flax fibers and preparing them to be spun.

Mirou looked at Ashanti’s hands, then at her own. Ashanti’s hands were once soft and without the callouses that marked her own palm and fingers. They were the hands of a high priestess, not of a slave; now they were raw, red, and painful to look at.

“Ashanti?”

“Yes, Mirou?”

“Are your hands happy?”

“Now, Mirou? No. But they are learning a new job, here in the sun with you. It was the Gods’ will that I leave behind my writing and my arts. My hands will be happy, in time.”

Mirou looked at Ashanti’s feet. No longer did soft slippers protect them from the bite of sharp stones. Ashanti’s feet still bled, even though she had been sitting and working for several hours.

“Ashanti?”

“Yes, Mirou?”

“Are your feet happy?”

“Now, Mirou? No. They miss dancing under the light of the full moon. When Demeter herself was envious of my pretty brown slippers, I slipped them off my feet and gave them to her. Now she bleeds as if a virgin again, and I am allowed the peace of an old woman. My feet will be happy again, in time.”

Mirou looked at Ashanti’s face. Her once blue eyes were milky-white, clouded over with age.

“Ashanti?”

“Yes, Mirou?”

“Are your eyes happy?”

“Now, Mirou? No. My eyes will never again see the beauty of a sunset, a tiny flower, or my lover’s face. Remember always that Silenus is an angry drunkard, and Hera bears grudges. Together, they conspired to cover my eyes, thus even Apollo’s smallest servants have advantage over me. No matter, I hear as well as ever.”

“But, Ashanti?”

“Yes, Mirou?”

“Are you happy?”

“Now, Mirou? Yes. I am happy.”

“How, Ashanti? How can you be happy? Your soft hands are in pain, your feet are bleeding, and your eyes are blind.”

“I am still here, Mirou. The Gods are not finished with me yet.”