Caroline Giammanco: Paradise Ends

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Paradise Ends

By Caroline Giammanco

My life is the crashing waves, the howling wind, and the pelting sand of Hurricane Ana. Her fury mirrors the turmoil within my heart and soul, and in this moment I refuse to think about the devastation and the aftermath. I will worry about that later. I should hide, I suppose, but I am drawn to the view outside my window. I feel comfortable for the first time in weeks because this world makes sense to me.

Ana’s early this season. Spring breakers frolicked along this beach less than a month ago. June hasn’t arrived, but Ana is here in all her glory. She proves that nothing stops the kind of destruction that strikes when we least expect it. Just as my own life appeared perfect for a time, the tranquil beaches now under storm-surge warnings are in chaos. Their placid days in the sun are a memory within the onslaught. Neither they nor I will ever be the same. Perhaps we will rebuild, but we will know we are different. Ana’s early arrival reminds me of the premature end to my hopes and dreams.

Chad and I chose this time of year and place to marry and honeymoon because rates are cheap and the weather is traditionally good in May. The rates are not as cheap as his promises. My life has spun out of control, just like Ana. The only difference between us is that she has power. I have none. I am the fury, but I am also the crumbled ruin that will remain when the gentle tides return to lap these tortured beaches.

The lies were obvious for longer than I care to admit. The time spent trapped in this hotel room gives me the chance to reflect on my ruination—and on the role I played in it. I knew in my mind that Chad’s charm, his stability, was too good to be true. Things didn’t add up. The late-night calls, the sudden cash, the unexplained receipts in his car all pointed to a life he led that didn’t include me. He is to blame for his lies and manipulations. I am to blame for being a willing participant in the fairy tale. I wanted a Prince Charming. I wanted the happily-ever-after. I didn’t want to believe the nagging doubts that stabbed at my happiness. I can’t blame Chad for my own gullibility. He’s guilty for his sins. I’m guilty for mine.

Why travel here after the wedding and my make-believe life disappeared? The easy answer, the one I fall back on, is that the trip is already paid for. That’s the excuse I give others because it’s easier than breaking down the truth. The more difficult answer is that I want a few more weeks to hide from what awaits me back in Houston. I don’t want to read the headlines or to be hounded by reporters. I don’t want to be asked questions I have yet to answer myself. What do you do when your life falls apart in the flashing red and blue of police lights? How do you look your friends and family in the eye when you are duped and the world knows it? I have so much to figure out in the next two weeks, and the winds of Ana keep me at a safe distance from anyone who could get in the way of me reconciling my losses.

The hotel is deserted except for a few employees and myself. Occasionally I hear the clang of a tray or the ring of a telephone. There are fewer than one hundred people left on this side of the island. The last thing on my mind when I flew here was watching a weather report. I’ve developed a knack for being blindsided. Sitting in the path of a Category 5 hurricane may seem foolhardy, but if Chad can’t kill me, I don’t think Ana can either. I’m going to live in this moment. It makes more sense to me than the past two years do.

I watch the hurricane ravage the once-serene beach outside my hotel, and a strange peace envelopes my soul. I understand Ana and her wrath. I understand the weary piers. I feel the loss of the palms and the pain of the boardwalk. This is what it feels like when paradise ends.

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Write the Story: March 2019 Collection

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