Intercoastal Waterway, Alabama – December 24, 2012
The sky cleared in the afternoon, turned blue and sunny, warm enough for summer. Only a distant wall of clouds building on the western horizon gave any hint of the coming storm. But I knew, I’d known about it for days, I’d raced it across islands and open water, and across the mouth of Mobile Bay, because I felt it coming.
The hot, wet air pushed in by a cold front, the sky clearing, the wind dropping away as the world draws its breath. I feel it, I feel it on my skin, in my lungs, the shifts, the rising temperature day after day, the warm nights, the sticky fabric of my clothes that never seem to dry.
I notice because I can’t escape, I can’t hide behind four walls and central heating and air. The weather soaks into me until it’s like watching a movie play over and over again, until I can mouth the lines without thinking.
A wall of clouds swallowed the sunset and the first wisps of the front raced across the moon, thin and hollow, blown by a high wind above a still world, heralds serving notice.
“Hide,” they said.
“Review your severe weather emergency plan,” the weather radio said.
I slid along the Intercoastal Waterway, looking at Christmas lights strung up on docks and watching people stare at glowing televisions from their living room couches. They look so comfortable under roofs and behind walls. Cars raced past on a highway, lights from a giant marina blinded me, and I slunk away, feeling pushed by it all to the quiet, darker pieces of water where great herons stood like sentinels and groaned at my presence, telling me that I was in the wrong place, that I belonged to the engines and electric lights, that these dark corners were theirs.
“But I feel out-of-place there too,” I whispered.
In the daylight, I pass into civilization without thought, I walk down streets, I go into stores, I smile and say hello, but at night, when doors shut and welcome signs flip to “closed, please come again,” something shifts inside me, some piece of humanity dims and fades, grows wild and I want to hide in those dark corners out of the electric lights.
Fog rose in the air and the canal opened up into a bay that pushed civilization back from the water’s edge. I slipped onto a bank and found a place to hide, listening to dolphins breathing across the water through the fog as the rest of the world grew quiet, caught in that long draw of breath before a storm