At The Start

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December, SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.  

At the Start | Where did you start 2014?  Give us some background on this year.

It was prophetic.

It was also a Category 3 Hurricane.

Paul and I went to La Reunion, in the Indian Ocean, for the New Year, because some travel agent had convinced us that nothing else was available, and wouldn’t a tropical paradise off the coast of Africa be lovely? Said travel agent had conveniently failed to mention that this was also the shark attack capital of the world, and that the island had been hit dead-on by hurricanes three of the last four (now four of the last five) years.

I had been preoccupied with health issues, and hadn’t bothered to do a lot of research on the place before we went. And Paul had assumed that since we were headed to a full-service resort, we wouldn’t have to do a lot of studying the island before arrival.

That was…one of many mistakes we made.

Upon landing in Saint-Denis and discovering that basically all activities on La Reunion were cancelled in the short term, and non, there were no cars available for hire for us to explore on our own…it began to sink in just how screwed we were. It was then and only then, that someone even bothered to tell us about the sharks and the impending cyclone.

It was at that point that I demanded we leave.

But we were trapped.  Trapped like rats, in a resort teeming with cats (?!?!?!) and the French. Unable to leave; unable to see the sights; unable to even go out for a proper dinner because we hadn’t been able to hire a car…we were forced to eat pre-packaged resort pizzas and stare longingly at the beautiful water we couldn’t even dip a toe into because it was swimming with sharks.

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(False advertising.)

Needless to say, I continued to demand that we leave.

Needless to say, Paul and I were basically at each other’s throats, with a serious storm bearing down on us.  A storm that neither we, nor the resort, were prepared to handle. And it wasn’t just that — before I left New York for Dublin, and Dublin for Paris, and Paris for La Reunion, I had been told that I needed to have some surgery. That my inflammation levels were high, and all the testing had come back extremely suspicious, and I couldn’t get into the surgeon till the 10th day of January to confirm whether or not I had cancer.

In other words, I was sitting on an island in the Indian Ocean surrounded by sharks, a hurricane, and cancer, and Paul couldn’t figure out why I was so tense. And I couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t see that after I’d just lived through Hurricane Sandy the year prior, and was due for surgery for what seemed like an inevitable diagnosis, I couldn’t put on a happy face and shut up about the sharks, and the cats, and the insufferable Frenchman who kept pacing by our patio in his Saint James stripes and his electronic pipe.

(I still have irrational anger every time I think about that electronic pipe.)

So we were on the cusp of a new year, and we were at an impasse.  Not even an impasse. We were actively not speaking to each other.

Which presented even more of a challenge, because we were basically the only two fluent English-speakers in that whole damn place.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, we had to go to a fancy dinner with all the other resort guests who were stuck there because there were no flights out. We were just going to ride out the storm. It had an element of watching the dance band play as the Titanic went down; a weird solidarity of people eating a fancy dinner while the early stages of a cyclone made landfall.

But the travel agent had screwed up our reservation, and they’d left my name off. We were just M & Mme Paul’s Last Name. And we sort-of had to laugh, for the first time in days, because through all that had divided us, something was finally uniting us.

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(At the time, it was so striking, I took a photo of it!)

Sometime in the wee hours of the New Year, the hurricane began battering the island. At first, Paul thought it was kind of cool, but when the food and water ran out, I think he began to realise it wasn’t so great. And when we were finally able to leave the island, and the trip to the airport took something like six hours because the roads were all blocked or destroyed, I think he began to grasp that what we’d just lived through had been a bit of a narrow scrape.

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But we made it out.

And our relationship survived.

I guess it’s easy to go through life with no sharks, no surgeries, no tropical storms, no differences of opinion about safety and comfort. And it’s funny now, even just a year out, to look back on that trip and go: Man, never again!

Which is why it was all the more amusing and prophetic that the card at dinner on New Year’s Eve suggested that we shared a last name, since Paul proposed last week (more on this story to come, I promise!). But in the short term, I suppose the moral of this story is…there are happy endings even when the story begins under the most dire of circumstances; even when the year has a most inauspicious start.

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