Friday, January 22, 2016

Nurse the Hate: The Miami Storm

By the time the fever had begun to sink in I was completely committed.  I was one of a handful of people flying into the hurricane watch zone while the rest of the Orlando Airport was nervously heading north.  I sat at the airport bar at a bit of a crossroads.  The chill had begun to sink into my bones and I knew the next four hours of travel would be somewhere in the range of “unpleasant” to “slightly preferable to death”.  I decided that if I had a couple of whiskies it would provide some sort of medicinal relief to allow me to travel the rest of the way to my wildly discounted Miami hotel room.  It was a gamble.  

I sipped the whiskey watching the worsening weather reports in the background.  People had nervous eyes.  It reminded me of footage I had seen of journalists killing time in African nations at hotel bars during coup d’état violence waiting to see which side would win.  Being resigned to absorbing whatever bad news is coming your way does provide a certain freedom.  Anything less than the worst case scenario is a pleasant surprise.  Once the realization is met that no possible action or planning will help, that brief calm before the disaster is actually a nice moment.  It’s like that serenity when you’ve lost control of the car and you’re waiting for impact.  The cards are all on the table.

The flight to Miami didn’t cancel.  I boarded the plane.  The flight had several delays.  The five other passengers had begun to get edgy.  Thunderstorms made it impossible to take off.  The temperature in the plane increased.  The air became very heavy and stale.  I had begun to have chills.  By the time we took off, I was in declining health.  The nearly abandoned Miami airport was a foggy blur as I slowly plodded to get a cab.  I couldn’t understand much of what the cabbie said though his thick Haitian accent beyond his surprise I was traveling towards what was expected to be the epicenter of Superstorm of the Century.  He dropped me off at the hotel and I made my way up to the room to hopefully sleep off the sickness.  There were confusing instructions at the front desk of what to do if the situation deteriorated completely.  I was very sick now.  I had to get to a bed.

While the hurricane technically missed Miami, the impressive storm made the hotel tower sway.  Sheets of rain pummeled the windows.  I was deep in a fever, twisting in my sweat on the bed.  It was impossible to get comfortable.  I was in a state somewhere between sleep, fever, and unconsciousness.  Dreams and reality merged.  It was one of the worst fevers I’ve ever had.  I woke up briefly at 3am.  Palm trees bobbed back and forth in the heavy winds.  Lightning flashes made the world electric blue gray momentarily before sinking back to dark.  I closed my eyes again.  I woke up 11 hours later with the fever gone and a massive headache.  The storm had passed.  

My muscles were all sore from convulsing in chills the night before.  I walked to the lobby looking for something to drink.  A waiter left to fetch me an orange juice as I unsteadily made my way to the pool area.  Two men faced the large task of clearing all the storm debris and worked with the sluggish pace of a never ending task.  I knocked some palm fronds off of a lounge chair.  I sat in the sunshine.  The warmth of the sun felt good on my skin.  The waiter brought the juice, maybe one of the single best beverages I have ever had.   I turned my face into the sun.

An older man sat down two chairs to my left.  He gave a little huff as if gauging my interest in conversation.  Another moment passed.  He spoke up.  “Heck of a storm, huh?”  Yeah.  I slept through most of it I think.  I got some kind of a fever.  “Fever?  Huh…”  Another couple moments passed.  “Where you from?”  I’m from Cleveland.  I thought I’d get some sun for a couple of days.  It hasn’t gone according to plan.  “My first wife was from Cleveland.”  Oh yeah?  “Yeah.  She was the best piece I ever had.  Seriously.  The best piece.  She left me though.  For some French guy.  She lives in Paris now.  She sent me a letter once.  Told me that I treated her like shit and how happy she was with him now.  Fucking bitch.”  

Huh.  Where did she meet the French guy?  This guy looked like a manufacturer’s rep for sockets or something.  The waiter came back over and asked if I wanted another juice.  I did.  The older man declined to order anything.  We watched the waiter walk away.  “OK.  I gotta go.”  The man got up with a grunt.  He turned after taking a step.  “Hey, my first wife didn’t really leave me for a French guy.  It was some guy she worked with.  I thought you should know.”  Oh.  That’s OK.  He seemed relieved.  The man walked away.  The waiter came over a minute later with an identical juice to the first one.  It wasn’t nearly as good.


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