March 16th, 2013
It bothers me that I didn’t document my move before a big giant hurricane swept through and really fucked everything up. It’s not like I couldn’t remember why we moved here, it just got hard to remember BHS (Before Hurricane Sandy) AHS (After Hurricane Sandy) when everything was in upheaval.
Every time I talk about those first crazy months AHS, I have to state that we were lucky. Insanely “we might need to start going to church” lucky. One of us said that aloud just a few minutes after we opened our door holding our breath and expecting to see everything in our home floating and water logged. Yet, somehow, other than the mess I made while lifting everything up several feet before we left, our house was exactly as we left it BHS. I still have trouble comprehending that. Sure, the grade in front of our home is a few feet higher than street level. Sure, starting with our house, a few blocks directly above us didn’t flood (on the ocean side, the bay side did). All the houses directly behind us flooded, homes to the right and left of us flooded. We were told that when the ocean rushed up our street it took a left turn and completely inundated everything behind us. I’m still not sure how that works, but it was the only explanation our neighbors who rode out the storm could provide. Luck is random, and we were randomly spared any physical damage.
But, in my darkest hours I wished that maybe we hadn’t been so lucky and then beat myself up for thinking that way. An insurance check would have given us an out and we wouldn’t have had to endure the isolation, the uncertainty, and the horrendous commute that followed. The hardest part of life AHS for me were those internal battles and the guilt that followed. Constant mental exhaustion with the desperation to leave, the lists and math to make that happen, the worry I was being too hasty, the feeling of quitting amidst the resilience I saw all around me, the love of my neighborhood, the want to call it home again, penance, hope, rinse, repeat. Add to this equation the other half of "us" and "we". Both of us were going through the same miserable psychological spin cycle. At times we fell out of sync and turned against one another. Luckily, four and a half months out, we've settled back into our groove as a team and so goes the cliche that I think our love is a lot stronger for it. But at times, I worried that I'd lose my relationship – which is a lot more important than my apartment, where it is, or anything in it.
The last night BHS we went shopping at Target for some non perishables, batteries and a raft. Yep, a raft. We’d been stalking some fringe weather blogs the week before and expected the worst, and yet, I wanted to buy a fucking raft. Hurricane a-coming – get me a raft. Sometimes even I can't explain my logic. If I ever doubted for a second that Matt is my favorite person on the planet, the fact that he humored me with the whole raft thing, is one tiny example of how much I love this man. In the end, I’m glad we didn’t find a raft that night, we might not have evacuated the next day. I might have been stupid enough to use it when our street flooded, I might have been swept out to sea. If we hadn’t left, I can only imagine how terrifying a night it would have been as we watched the water come down our street and consume everything around us. Our car would have been destroyed like everyone else’s, and we would not have been able to get out for weeks.
We left when we were told – and I am glad we did. We moved to a barrier island in July, and for the first time in a long time – I can say that I’m glad we did. I’m a realist and a bit of a pessimist, I knew this could happen, I think I partially expected it to. I’m pretty sure I pay for every possible rider you can get with renter’s insurance – if an earthquake hits, I’m covered. I just couldn’t have imagined all the peripheral things it would affect for so long after. There were amazing times between then and October and, I’m starting to remember them without the bitter taste of the misery and isolation of what came after. Homes which have been gutted now have walls and people are living in them again, restaurants have been re-opening more steadily, laundromats are back and we even have options, there is talk of new businesses, roads are finally being repaved, street lights are coming back on and we're going on local adventures again.
Now I just need the A train to come back. Lately, like a recurring dream, I remember coming home from work BHS, walking through our train station on a summer evening and smelling sun tan lotion, sand and sea. And though I might not want to spend another hurricane season or winter out here on this island (maybe that will come, I’ve learned patience). I am starting to remember the details of the things I loved most about last summer, the things that inspired us to take a chance and try to live out here for both the warm and cold seasons. The memories are a start, but it’s going to take a lot of people walking through that train station wearing sunblock to bring back that exact moment of “home” that got me giddy every time.