In Harm’s Way


I am writing this blog post as Truman Capote did all his writing—in bed. It’s well before dawn here in Vieques, my island home five miles off Puerto Rico, and we’re under a state of emergency declared by the governor.

I was not here when Hurricane Maria devastated idyllic Caribbean outposts last September. Now, however, I am fewer than twenty-four hours from Puerto Rico’s first cyclonic attack of the 2018 hurricane season.

This storm’s a waif, they say—compared to monstrous Maria. She answers to the name Beryl. 

The original blog post I had planned for today is written, but not to my satisfaction. So it is unfinished.

Easy enough to explain.

The day after I arrived in Vieques a week ago, I noticed a bothersome sensation at the back of my throat. I thought it was the effect of the Sahara Sand phenomenon, which visits itself upon the Caribbean at this time each year. Sand from the African desert is lifted by winds, born high across the Atlantic, and dropped here to nourish our plant life.

As romantic as that might sound, my sore throat was not a product of the Sahara, but the effect of a two-day Amtrak trip immediately followed by a red-eye flight from JFK to Puerto Rico.

There are a lot of unhealthy people traveling on trains and jet planes, and one of them infected me.

So for the past week, I have been dragging around the house with no energy while sneezing, sniffling, and coughing into a growing mountain of tissues.

At the same time, it’s been busy as Grand Central Station here, with workers in and out to repair the damage to my house wreaked by Maria.

Yesterday locals started to prepare for Beryl. Supermarkets are cleaned out and lines at gasoline stations are twenty cars long.

People here who managed through Maria are not ashamed to admit to PTSD. They are not trusting of forecasters’ dismissal of Beryl as a minor storm. And they are not afraid to admit they’re afraid.

Anyone who says they're not afraid of a hurricane is either a fool or a liar, or a little bit of both.


(Images: At the top, my house before Hurricane Maria. And, afterwards.)

If you enjoyed reading this, you will like my new novel, Billy of the Tulips, a sensitive boy’s grim engagement with innocence and iniquity, now available from Amazon.

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