Again, Jack gives me the tone, the head tilt, the cocked eyebrow. “Stop worrying. Everything will turn out great. Hasn’t it always turned out good for us when you just trusted me?”
And, just like that, I’m remembering the hurricane and, before I can open my mouth, he’s read my mind.
“One tiny little mistake and you’re never going to let me forget it!”***************
We’ve been married 15 years, Jack and I. In that time we’ve lived on the Big Island of Hawaii, the Caribbean coast of Mexico, the high desert of Arizona, and traveled the U.S in an old motor home. Jack says before he met me he changed jobs and wives every five years. Now he’s retired and this wife just moves with him to each new location. It’s not a lifestyle for everyone, but it works for us.
The hurricane episode happened when we were living on the beach in the Mexican Caribbean, about sixty miles south of Cancun, in the community of Paamul. At that time, Paamul was a small, funky little trailer park where an interesting, slightly shady, and decidedly odd collection of gringos rented narrow slots of sand from a local politico. We all built wooden decks along one side and shade palapas over our trailers. Palapas are palm-leafed shelters the local Mayans are happy to build to protect a gringos frog-belly white skin from the tropical sun for the low, low price of whatever the above mentioned clueless foreigner is stupid enough to pay.
We had dragged a 35 foot park model trailer the length of Mexico. A trip that still makes me shake and my left eye twitch whenever I think about it. But that’s another story. Let’s just say we were robbed at gun point, held up for three days by a political demonstration which blocked the only road south while hardy little brown men with large machetes ranted in Spanish what we assumed were the instructions, “Kill all the gringos first.”
That was the good part of the trip, before the transmission died three times and we sat in three different dirt yards and visited with the locals while the children chased the geese and turkeys and pigs and chickens to retrieve the small, probably inconsequential parts of our transmission that were scattered about in the freshly swept dirt. I’ve pretty much recovered from that little adventure, but, still, please, give me just a minute. The twitching goes away much quicker now. I just need a moment or two.
Okay. So. We’re set up under our termite infested palapa on the Mexican Caribbean, enjoying the pale blue sky and the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean, when we begin to hear rumors that a class five hurricane is headed our way. Let’s rethink this. We’ve built a grass house over a mobile home in a hurricane zone. Huh. Remind me again. What happened to the little pig that built his house of straw? We throw a couple of hurricane parties, talk loud and bold, keep a sharp ear cocked to the weather channel, pack some clothes and a couple bottles of water into the van. We do our best not to hear the wolf calling for us to come on out and play.
Just after midnight on the third day, a knock at the aluminum door of the trailer announces the evacuation order. We had a dog then too. Truffles. The best dog in the whole world. Calm, disciplined, only slightly neurotic, a Shar-pei the color of milk chocolate. So we load Truffles into the car along with a cooler of gold fish. We had the fish in an outside pool. We couldn’t very well leave them to fend for themselves in the hurricane. Could we?
Off we go, headed inland, fish water splashing onto the carpet of the van at each turn. Truffles, always fastidious, refuses to put even one paw on the quickly soggy floor of the van. She rides perched on the tool box which is in between the two captain’s chairs in the front. Each time a turn causes a little more water to fly from the crest of a fishy wave and onto the floor, she gives a small, but clear humph and glares at us. We really never were good enough for that dog.
By daybreak we’re about fifty miles inland. It’s raining and the wind is blowing, but nothing too impressive appears to be happening. We try to find a station on the van’s radio to find out if the hurricane has hit land. We locate several, all in Spanish. All we can understand are the words Hurricano and Cancun. This is not especially useful information.
Some of the people with whom we left camp decide to travel another 100 miles inland to the city of Merida. They figure they’ll get a hotel room and hang out until the storm has passed. We decide to stay where we are. We play cards, walk around the tiny village where we’re parked, walk the dog, and pick the pig teeth out of the meat from the local taco stand where we’re buying breakfast, lunch and dinner.
By noon on the second day, the rain seems to have let up a little, we’re tired of pig head tacos, the novelty of a dog covered in wrinkles has worn off for the local kids and we decide to start cautiously back toward Paamul and see what we find. I did warn you earlier about our lack of common sense, right?
Here’s the thing. The further we drive toward the coast, the harder the wind blows. Or so it seems to me.
But, when I mention this to Jack, he says, and this exact quote is burned indelibly into my memory banks, he says… and can you hear the tone of voice? Can you just envision that eyebrow cocked in frustration, the portrayal of exasperation at having to explain the way the world works to a woman?
He says, “Do you see that the wind is blowing counter clock-wise?”
“No, not really,” I say. “It just seems like it’s blowing harder.”
“Trust me, if it’s blowing counter clock-wise, than the hurricane has already passed.”
“Well, see that’s the thing, I’m pretty sure the clock-wise/counter clock-wise thing has to do with where we are in the world. And I don’t guess I do actually trust you to interpret the conditions of a hurricane. Since you’ve never seen one before.”
That, more or less, is what I said.
Evidently, to a man, that actually means, “You have an extremely small penis, are an inadequate lover and general all around fuck up.”
“I know what I’m doing,” he says and we keep heading for the coast.
A few tense minutes later, after he’s dodged a fallen limb and one of our windshield wiper blades, having been turned up to maximum speed, has flown off into the jungle, he says, “This is all just windfall from the hurricane. See? So the storm has past.”
Even Truffles can hear the uncertainty in his voice as she gives him a look and one of her snorts.
It’s just about now, as we’re creeping along the obstacle course of fallen limbs, that a policeman in a brown poncho runs up to our van, taps frantically on the driver’s side window and begins yelling, “Hurricano! Alto! Alto! Ven conmigo ahora!” which, roughly translated means, “You fucked up and drove directly into the hurricane. Your wife is never going to let you forget it and, yes, you really do have a tiny little penis.”
We are shown where to pull our van off the side of the road and hurry toward a small cement school house. The officer clearly tells us to leave the dog in the car. I just as clearly make him understand that if the dog doesn’t go, neither do I. With no time to argue, we bring the dog and step into the school house where we join a dozen Mayan families and a scattering of truck drivers and police officers. Standing room only. The toilet is a bucket in the corner of the room. There are a few pieces of soggy cardboard scattered on the cement floor which the children are using to make themselves little beds.
This is where we spend the next thirty-eight hours. The walls bend and bow and the men line up and push from the inside to offset the winds on the outside. The children, at first frightened of Truffles, and of us, settle in and use Jack as a shield at the height of the storm and the dog as a pillow. When the eye of the hurricane passes over, we all rush outside to pee and hurry back inside before the next wall of destruction hits. A person can’t remain standing for 38 hours, so long before the end is in sight, we’re all curled together, lying in a foot or so of water and balancing the children along our bodies to keep them as dry as possible.
So you get the idea.
When Jack says, “Trust me. I know what I’m doing”… tone of voice and lifted eyebrow notwithstanding, I do get a teensy bit nervous. It’s taken six years for his penis to reach its current size, we don’t need to do anything to shrink the little guy again.
But I digress. Back in Arizona, I, the instigator of the plan to move to Panama, am getting nervous, while Jack is in full-speed-ahead mode. I can only pray we’re not headed directly into the eye of yet another storm.