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|Essays · Poetry · Comedy · Art · Video||summer 2021|
Waiting for the Goddess
Sept. 6, 2002, published in Jan. 2003,
Yung Ho, Taipei County, Taiwan
We learned in World History of the great Hindu goddess Siva the Destroyer. But tonight's impending 'Goddess,' the English-language Taipei Times' rough translation of Typhoon Sinlaku, has not yet decided whether, or how much, she will destroy.
First appearing on my radar screen on Wednesday, the then-unnamed entity meant only excitement, my first hurricane in many years, and a needed day off from teaching English. My supervisor reported the news with some levity that we may have the day off tomorrow. Turns out we worked today: the storm is still too far offshore, last tracked at 720 km east, and heading our way at 15 km/h.
The greater atmospheric disturbance, though much farther away 14,000 miles east and physically smaller, a mere city compared to Sinlaku's galactic mass lies poised inside my mother's right breast. We won't find out the test results until Monday. The breast has to go; she knew that early rare destructive side-effect of the radiation used to treat the earlier 'solid masses.' Occasionally, with very fair-skinned patients, the radiation kills needed blood vessels, rendering the tissue unsalvageable.
But reappearance of the cancer, so soon and in the same place, was unexpected. They've tested her bones, other tissues, everywhere you can test for cancer I suppose, and on Monday we'll learn the forecast: has this storm spun its winds in other seas? Will my mother simply lose a breast, and continue with the life she loves: the painting, cooking delicious Cajun food, holding her new, twin granddaughters? Will she be there to hold my own children, should they ever appear? Will my brand-new life in Taiwan be abruptly diverted to one of caring for a dying parent (or two) in a subtropic more familiar than this one?
Or will the Goddess dissipate peacefully, bearing less than the will to destroy? The first gales were expected some time tonight, but my boss informed me that, "it's moving incredibly slowly."
* * *
The ritual of waiting for hurricanes syncopated my childhood like none other: the communal watching of the weather bulletins, first at school and then at home; the placement on all windows and sliding glass doors of the plywood window boards that I watched my father carefully construct to custom-fit each window; the otherwise-unsmelled scent of kerosene and the delightful antiquity of 'hurricane' lanterns.
I only partly remember the one-house migration from our house on Lafourche and First Streets to the Thibodeauxs' stronger, brick house next door in the middle of the night almost exactly 37 years ago tonight. It was 1965, so I was not yet 4 years old; and so was bundled and carried, as we Cajun exiles trailed around the hedges, followed the crumbling asphalt's edge to safety during Betsy's eery eye. I'm sure it was Mama who carried me then, before we knew how far Betsy's swath would devastate up through New Orleans and all the way to Ohio before her wailing would quell.
* * *
Soon after I rose from unreachable sleep to write these words, Sinlaku's first burst of rain hastened an ovation against my window screen. Almost as suddenly, she changed her mind and stopped, for the present minutes shrugging long enough to let the living live.
David Saia edits moocat.net. His work has been published and produced in several venues, including The Daily Reveille, The Culture Report, New Delta Review, and the now-defunct San Francisco Review.Got feedback on this page? Share it with the moocat!
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