Island of Light, Island of Shadow

“Here’s where the hurricane tore off my roof,” she pointed upward. We look at exposed wood beams under open sky. “It was horrible,” Ruth crossed her arms. “Doors shook. Water came into the house.”

Her son tugged on her pant leg and she lifted him. “We hid in the bathroom.” Patting his head, she leaned on the balcony to study the island. It was like a furious giant had stomped and clawed the town of Utuado, Puerto Rico. Trees were snapped. Power lines, ripped. Mudslides bled over roads.

“No electricity. No water. All day to get anything done,” she said as she rocked her son. “I don’t think it’s going to get better anytime soon.” 

Hurricane Maria

The storm fed on heat. Like an angry spirit seeking release, it climbed the sky. Warm. Sluggish. Slow. Hungry for fury. It found more than wind on the ocean. It tasted carbon, the gaseous exhale of civilization. 

It fed on the heat spawned by a billion cars and thousands of jets that crossed the planet. Awakened to its power, the storm screamed like a newborn, its 175 mile-per-hour winds lashed waves upon waves.

Hurricane Maria’s eye opened, seeing a path. This fury, half made by nature, half by man. It violently spun in space, cursed hot breaths of lightning and storm. She drew darkness over the islands as the poor nailed wood over windows, heard of her immensity and said her name over and over … Maria.

New York City

“Are they safe?” I asked.

“I called,” Mom said. “But no one picks up the phone.” On screen, a NASA video showed a white foamy spiral around a black hole. Like the sky had been unplugged and all the weight and force of the atmosphere drained into the eye.

Everywhere Hurricane Maria passed went dark and then, slowly, photos surfaced. Dominica. Bahamas. Wrecked. Homes like piles of splinters. Roads cracked. Rivers gushed through the center of town. People digging through wreckage.

It churned over the Caribbean until its dark eye slammed into Puerto Rico and then vanished. An eerie quiet followed. No news came from the…

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