In the Face of Matthew . . .
With Hurricane Matthew pummeling Haiti, Cuba, and Jamaica and surging toward the States, Charleston residents are gassing up, stocking up and, true to form, ensuring they have enough booze for the next three to four days. Governor Haley issued mandatory—not voluntary, but they also won’t make you leave—evacuation orders for all coastal areas of Charleston, including my little Zone A island. When I woke up yesterday morning, I checked the news and prepared to at least buy a few gallons of water, cans of spaghettio’s and meatballs (don’t you judge me) and tampons. By 5:00 p.m. I was texting friends for a place inland to stay, preparing a mental packing list, and wondering how long it would take me to find a gas station to fill up my Toyota.
I watched Leap Year on Netflix two nights ago. You know the part when they hike up the hill to the castle while she’s waiting on her train to Dublin? Matthew Goode asks Amy Adams, “If your home were on fire, what would you take?” She doesn’t answer him, and later at the end of the movie she realizes she’s gotten everything she wanted but nothing she really needed, and she looks around her couture apartment and sees nothing she would take with her.
There’s nothing like a mandatory evacuation to make me think real hard about the things I harbor and what I treasure most. I look around my apartment and see a lot of things I think I need on a daily basis, but now they don’t look so critical. Earlier when I ran through my packing list, it looked like this: baby book, birth certificate, social security card, Macbook, journals, Brer Rabbit book that my parents read to me every night as a kid, and my great-grandmother’s plates. Maybe also a bag of Haribo gummy bears for the road because a mandatory evacuation equals mandatory snacks.
The truth is, I am scared of Mother Nature’s flying whirlpool named “Matthew” and scared of the possibility that I could return to a ravaged island and a soggy home. I’m scared for my ER nurse friend who will be called into the hospital from Thursday to Monday for 12-hour on/12-hour off shifts and not allowed to leave the campus. I’m scared for the people who choose not to evacuate and those who don’t have the option. I’m scared that my car so desperately in need of maintenance will decide she’s over it halfway between Charleston and Greenville.
Today, a low pressure system sits heavy in the air and the streets of downtown Charleston and my island community lie empty and waiting. The wind gusts cooler—offbeat to our usual coastal breezes. Most businesses closed by noon to board up their windows and arrange sandbags. My girlfriend and I managed to find one of the few open cafes and sipped sweet cream lattes while the Weather Channel flashed updates and our heads spun with fluctuating storm paths.
I hope that the hype ends in nothing, that the storm misses us and Matthew takes his fat, happy ass off to sea. In the meantime, let’s all be overly safe even if it seems unnecessary, let’s all be kind even if we’re panicked, and let’s all keep close the things and people we treasure most.
Much love to you, Charleston.