Every time a storm comes now, I stay up all night, obsessing over the radar, texting Devin and Nichol, imagining the worst. I worry about making it to Annabelle in time and about where we’ll go when I get to her. I wonder if Stephanie was sleeping or if she had desperately been trying to get her and Harlan to safety when that tornado struck. Were they huddled together in a closet? Was he ripped from her arms? Were they conscious? Did she have time to process anything? Was her heart in her throat? How many times did they get thrown around before that funnel finally dropped their broken bodies into the creek bed? Were they dead when they landed or just unconscious, left to drown?
I don’t believe in destiny but if I did, I’d bet money that mine was going to come for me in the form of a storm. Some of my oldest memory fragments involve them.
…My first house was covered in wood paneling… someone (probably my mother) carried me downstairs and told me to get into the coat closet while they watched the news for weather updates… I demanded to be surrounded with all my stuffed animals.
…being hustled down into a musty dirt storm shelter by my Memama and watching as she planted her feet on the ground and fiercely pulled on the rope to keep the door from flying open…the smell of dank earth… Someone passing me a wrinkly apple to eat while we waited for things to calm down.
…Sitting in rocking chairs on my grandparents wraparound porch, watching the rain pour and lightening strike in the distance, memorized by the beauty.
…Riding in the back of a minivan on a Sunday afternoon, my parents talking to their friends, pointing at the debris coming straight for us, pointing and asking, “what is that?” right before the world went dark and our vehicle began to fly… my fathers arm, the only thing I could focus on when things stopped moving, covered in blood. Did you know that a windshield looks like a glittery mosaic when it’s caved in?… They’re telling me to come out of the van but I can’t find one of my shoes. At the time, this seemed terribly important…. sitting at a table in the hospital cafeteria for hours, waiting for an update but being told they still haven’t gotten my father out of the vehicle yet… finally hearing he was being rushed into surgery.
…standing outside our new vehicle alone. I’d gone to get a book I left in it but without my mother, I didn’t want to get in the car because I was terrified.
… being stuck in the basement while my mother watches the television to determine when it would be safe to go upstairs and get a drink from the kitchen.
…Huddling in the bathtub as a teenager listening to golf ball sized hails pounding the roof… my boyfriend calling to tell me that he loved me.
…Stuck at work at Sally’s in Oklahoma City while under lock down due to a tornado warning.
…Stuck at SunTrust being forced to play games with our team that I didn’t want to participate in.
… Being woken frantically by Nichol in the middle of the night… telling her there was no “safe” place in our apartment to go so we might as well go back to sleep…not winning that argument.
… Milo barking at thunder. All. night. long.
…Waking up from Leo and Ladybug scratching at the door. Lying awake next to Matt as the sky fell down outside. Wondering if I should go wake Annabelle. Looking at my phone and seeing a tornado watch but but no warning. Waiting until it calmed down and then finally going back to sleep… Waking the next morning to a call from an unknown number. Answering in confusion and assuring my boss’s boss that I was okay, and our home was okay. Hearing that my boss had bad damage to his home… getting up and logging on Facebook to hear that Cookeville had been hit by massive storms and a tornado tearing through the Double Springs area… being told no one had heard from Stephanie… assuming she’d probably left to go to her mother’s… getting worried as they day dragged on… the gut punch when I learned her car had been found in a tree… pouring over Facebook searching for updates…knowing before hearing confirmation what their fates had been.
For a long time, I’d made piece with storms. I understood that if they were going to get me, there was nothing I could do about it. They understood… well, who knows what a storm understands? But now, it’s not just me and my lack of control eats away at me.
And now, another memory that will always be part of me is one that I wasn’t present to experience but thanks to my overactive imagination replaying multiple scenarios, it feels like I was. I keep trying to understand how my friend could be breathing and (hopefully) sleeping peacefully one minute and then without any warning, just wasn’t anymore.
I don’t believe in destiny. I think “premonitions” are a real sensation people feel but I don’t think they’re necessarily based on anything true. So, I remind myself that it doesn’t mean anything, but I can’t shake the feeling that something is coming. Is it a storm? A car accident? Will I be a casualty of this modern-day plague? Maybe I will die an old woman, surrounded by loved ones. I don’t know. I just don’t know.