Closing time. Time for you to go out to the places you will be from.
Move it to the exits. I hope you have found a friend.
It’s that time of the year again. The end of human civilization as we know it. For the next three months, prepare to sweat in crevices of your body you once thought impermeable to sweating. It is The End of Days. Everyone is leaving, every place is closing. Hurricane season is upon us.
While hurricane season is officially June 1st – November 30th, the height of it (read: the most likely time we’ll be hit by a big ‘un) is the months of August, September, and October. Because the majority of our tourism in the BVI is sailing charters and because most intelligent beings intuit that staying on a strange boat in the middle of an unfamiliar chain of islands during a violent storm is not a wise way to spend one’s vacation, tourism takes a dramatic plunge into the non-existent and hence most businesses in the territory close to ensure their survival mid-August through mid-October.
When people ask what it’s like here this time of year, the best way I can ever manage to describe it is post-apocalyptic. It is all at once awesome / depressing / rejuvenating / excruciatingly boring / disconcerting. While we aren’t quite lucky enough to have the pizzazz of zombies or extra-terrestrials, the decimation of life as we know it is the notable loss. The other members of your species desert you, your resources are depleted, and Mother Nature shows herself for the spiteful bitch she revels in being when no one is looking.
Most days, the wind ceases to blow and gives you the impression of being locked inside a tropical snow globe that the puppet master beyond the glass can’t be bothered to shake. The trees stand frozen, their branches and leaves locked stiffly, as though they’re a mere Polaroid of their live selves. The absence of breeze intensifies the heat while the ever-present humidity has reached its apex and coats you in its balmy blanket, giving your skin the inscrutable combination of being both sticky and slippery at the same time.
With fewer people to feast on and no wind to impede their flight, the mosquitoes flock to any warm body in biblical swarms, convincing you there is no explanation other than God is smiting you. Are you being punished for your drunkenness, your disregard for authority, the profanities you yelp in toe jams? Or was it the coveting of thy neighbor’s panoramic view and mirage-like array of imported wines? One can’t be sure. But one is keenly aware of the plague of red, itchy bumps covering one’s body with no relief in sight. You’re forced to dress for time spent outdoors in attire better suited for colder locales, wishing instead that you had one of those beekeeper suits to cover your face and suspend the incessant buzzing in your ears that is 10 seconds away from reducing you to screaming aloud, a primal jungle cry that is a mix of exasperation and the crushing of your soul.
Your relative attractiveness peters. You forgo the make-up, which manages to melt mid-application and besides – your dripping face must be wiped down every 5 minutes with the sweat rag you have taken to keeping close at hand in the string of your bikini bottoms (because seriously, who can be bothered to wear actual clothes anymore).
The bright side is the respite from the tourists, imperative for everyone to recharge and build back up their ability to smile again at people who keep asking you, “So, tell us, what’s your story?” The seagulls also make their exit, taking the shortage of French fries to pilfer as their cue to hit the skies. Because there is little work to be done, most people use this time of year for their extended vacations, leaving only those of us with high-maintenance pets that they can’t find a sitter for to loaf around on their own. There are times when you can go stretches of days without seeing another human, which can be freeing for those with nudist tendencies and melancholic for the more social of butterflies among us.
With most of the restaurants and bars closed, you’re left with few options for dining out. The few and far between that do stay open cut down their menus significantly, with even those items subject to change based on availability of ingredients. Last season, I ordered the nachos (the only vegetarian option) and was presented with a plate of stale chips topped with canned salsa and sliced olives. The waitress shrugged, saying by way of explanation that no one could find any cheese, sour cream, onions, beans, let alone, guacamole. And you of course believe her, as you’ve been to the grocery stores and witnessed the vacant produce trays with your own eyes, the moldy tomatoes and bruised apples mirroring your defeated gaze.
At times when the imminent threat of storms become actual storms, you huddle indoors while the weather wages a war outside your shutters. You drink margaritas in excess as a form of entertainment in and of itself, not varying much in comparison to how you’re spending your days the rest of hurricane season.
Last year, due in large scale to boredom and a desire to remain prostrate inside the screened-in world with the A/C blasting, we decided to take on all 6 seasons of Lost. It was a valiant undertaking – 121 episodes worth to be exact – that I can’t say we didn’t regret at times and it produced unforeseen side effects including but not limited to: every vague rustle of bush taking on new life as sounds of “them” whispering and/or polar bears; startling yourself with imagined sightings of apparitions of people you once knew; a morbidly selfish desire for a plane of intriguing people (fingers crossed, sans children) to crash on your island for your own amusement; and an overall sense of drama and secrecy to everything you say, setting the stage for misplaced conversational resentment on the home front. All in all, it kept us entertained through the month and that is more than I can say for the reef out back that I’m ashamed to admit became rather commonplace after our 18th snorkel.
This year, we now have a pool, so our outlook is decidedly more optimistic. The fresh food shortages will be the toughest cross to bear, but with the right mix of gin, lingering friends, and a communal collection of board games, I think we might just make it through once more.
Either way, don’t worry about me. If all else fails, I’ll just be over here painting volleyballs with my own blood.