She was calm, her mind was clear and she felt like she wasn’t even present there. She wasn’t scared or worried. She knew it was coming. In fact, she lived through this many times before and even though it was terrifying from time to time, it always ended well.
She was in her house –not a very solid structure made of thin wood and carton and rather old. Huge storm was coming their way and despite it happening during day it was getting darker and darker outside. It almost felt like night, but since the power was out, she had to stay in the darkness. She didn’t have much to do except looking out of a window. The rain hasn’t started yet and it was a calm moment before a major storm. Sudden change in air pressure felt like something heavy was placed directly into one’s head. She checked the weather again on the phone. Huge reddish cloud was coming directly her way. Oh well, it happened almost every week last summer, but they hardly ever had any damage except a few fallen tree branches which didn’t cause much damage either. The clouds were getting darker and so low that it felt like they were touching tops of the trees. Wind started to gain more power. Now it looked like the trees are moving in every direction. Leaves, broken branches and dirt, gotten into the air by strong currents, started to fly in circles getting higher and higher with every new wave of the wind. Then light, a sudden bright flash in the darkness - so close and so low – indicated that the storm must be directly above. A loud round of thunder in a couple of seconds after the lightning made the whole house tremble and shake. She kept sitting by the window even though she knew it was dangerous. Tree branches looked like they were ready to detach themselves from the trees and fly first high in the air and then far away. No rain yet, but she started to receive tornado warnings on the phone. Not every storm in the past came with a tornado warning, but recently, most of them brought a tornado or two along. Most of the time tornadoes just flew away without touching the ground, but if they touched down the damage was extensive. Her house wasn’t solid enough to keep her alive. There was no place to hide, no basement or any other enclosed place where she can hide far away from all the windows. She saw what tornadoes did to solid brick structures; she knew how destructive it could be.
Finally it started to rain. Colder drops promised some relieve from the impossible heat – it’s been around 100F for days. Hot air in conjunction with high humidity plus no power - which means no AC -made last few hours unbearable. She felt like opening a window to let some of the wind inside, but it was way too dangerous with upcoming possibility of tornado. It was raining heavier and heavier and since the wind was still very strong it looked like a scary computer game where everything is moving in some unnatural and terrifying way. Small ponds stated to form outside, then turn into little creeks and rivers – parts of that water was taken back up by the wind. Then hail, first small pieces of ice, then as big as a ping pong ball. There was nothing she has seen it before. She wasn’t scared at all…
It was all over. Her home was gone. It was going to take months, maybe even years to rebuild the house. Whole subdivision was wiped out and about a dozen of her neighbors lost their lives, a few went missing. She was lucky to be still alive because her house was literally flown away. She was able to hide inside of a heavy gun safe – she was lucky that thing was huge and she was small and skinny to fit in there comfortably; she closed the door for a few minutes and when rocks and heavy items stopped hitting metal sides of the safe she opened the door and it was all over. The whole disaster only took about 10 minutes from beginning to the end. She hid in the safe when the roof of the house got a huge hole in it and started to rip apart. She kept all important documents, some jewelry and old family pictures in the safe. That was all she had left after the storm. The rest of her stuff was gone. For her that only meant a brand new start far away from there. It’s been a while since she started to plan a big move. She couldn’t stand the South any longer. The hot weather was unbearable – no way to step outside all summer long. She grew up in a much colder climate - humidity with heat weren’t her favorite things. Now, with all her stuff gone and house destroyed it should be quite easy to move on and start everything from scratch again. Somewhere up North. She’d have to start all over again – new job, new friends… New and improved woman, a deadly storm survivor, a local celebrity talking on the news about her amazing story - it was like dying in the storm and being born again with new values and new life.
She’s done it before. At some point of life it felt like nothing is new because everything she did is just something she’s done before. She had some experience of leaving everything behind for a complete change of scenery. She’s changed countries, languages, houses, jobs, friends… It was easy. It was good for her because it took her out of the habitual life track, put her into new stressful environment where she had to survive, fight for herself, get used to new things around, learn much more than she needed before the change and kept her from being comfortable and no longer fighting. It was time for another change. This kind of lifestyle didn’t only give her a great life experience - it helped her to have an exciting life. It kept making her life conditions better and better since every change is meant to be an improvement from the step before it.
She looked at her reflection in a big bathroom window – pretty, young looking girl. Her face looked tired. Her naturally blonde hair was dirty and yellowish, so, she kept it in a ponytail. She was in her early 30s, but looked 10 years younger – smooth skin, bright green eyes – no need for makeup. Anna left the little rest area and returned back to the bus. It was last 15 minutes snack stop before long overnight trip to NYC. Even though the sun was almost gone, it was very hot. American summers never felt comfortable for Anna. She was born and grew up in Norway, she was more used to colder weather. How did she end up in the Deep South? After graduating from the Medical School of the University of Bergen with a degree in Medical Biology she was offered a teaching job in Alabama. It sounded like an adventure and she decided to try. English was a challenge at first, as well as a very different culture. It took her a few years to get used to the new environment and atmosphere. She eventually decided to stay there and bought a little house near Birmingham. She never felt particularly happy there. She didn’t have enough time to get married and to start a family. Honestly, she didn’t even date anyone seriously. Her whole life was about work and thoughts, and some periods of depression and desperation. Time was going fast, but she often felt like she was not living her own life and her real life was happening somewhere else, someone else was living the way she wanted to live.
“Hi” – she heard soft voice behind her. She turned her head. It was dark; lights on the bus were so dimmed that it was hard to see. There was a young girl on the seat behind Anna’s. “Excuse me”, she continued, “I’m kind of cold, but I can’t reach my blanket, it’s on the shelf up there”. She pointed to the luggage compartment above the seats. Her mother was soundly asleep. It was a little after midnight and our bus was going fast. “Sure”, Anna got girl’s bright blanket and helped her to get covered. She also helped to find her missing stuffed animal. The girl was about 5 years old. Anna returned to her seat and continued thinking. “Children. Do I even want to be a mother? Do I want to be responsible for someone else’s life?” She wasn’t even married, didn’t even have a boyfriend... It was probably premature to think about having children, she thought. So far it felt like she can barely take care of herself. All her stuff – well, what was left of it anyway – was packed in 2 bags. That was all she had after the tornado. She didn’t have a place to live. She didn’t know where she was going and what she will do. Anna lived in a present moment and had no future plans.
Next morning the bus and its passengers have arrived to NYC. It was hot and humid. Dusty asphalt was smelly and all city sounds overwhelmed Anna almost instantly. It was still early and she saw people rushing to work. They were dressed in business suits and holding suitcases in one hand and coffee cups in the other. They had their lives figured. They knew what they wanted, where they were going and what they want to be doing. It wasn’t that clear for Anna. She was sitting there in a crowded city at a busy bus stop with no idea where she wants to be. She spent a few hours there just sitting on a bench observing other people. She hardly slept on the bus, her mind was scattered and she wasn’t thinking clearly. Busses were stopping by and leaving the station. She watched other people getting in and out of them. Most buses looked about the same – worn-out to some degree, dirty, with little color variation. A newer and bigger bus attracted Anna’s attention. It was red and shiny and looked like it can bring her somewhere good. Some place where a great success can be achieved, all dreams can come true… It was almost noon, it started to become impossibly hot – middle of July with no clouds on the sky. She got into the bus as soon and its passengers left. She didn’t know where it was going, or if it was going anywhere at all. The bus driver left the doors opened and was talking with his friends outside. She got to the back seat – the AC was still working and it was pleasantly nice and cool. She closed her eyes and fell asleep almost instantly.
She woke up when the sun was already down. There were a few people on the bus, but it wasn’t full and it wasn’t moving. She looked outside. There was the ocean, big ships. It looked like a port with an adjacent industrial district. “What time is it?” – She thought – since she didn’t have a watch she looked at her phone. Of course, she found 20 new emails in the inbox – which she completely forgot to check earlier. Her friends were worried about her, newsletters and ridiculous job offers were delivered just to be deleted, facebook status updates – it is impossible to stay disconnected these days, you’re constantly reminded to disclose location or current situation. She didn’t feel like doing that. With the information overload from the phone she forgot to check the time – her original task. It was 8pm. She turned off the phone. More than anything else she wanted to be left alone. A minute later the bus started moving. She didn’t know where it was going and didn’t care enough to get up and ask someone either.
The trip didn’t take long – only in a couple of hours there was a big bus station in a big city. Anna was looking into a window all the way and saw the bus entering New England. She didn’t know where exactly it was going, but the bus ended up arriving to Boston. It was dark and late. She got off the bus, walked for a few hours carrying her stuff along with no aim, then decided to stop at a hotel for the night. She checked in into an average looking hotel, the area looked like a city, but it wasn’t downtown or business district. She’s never been to Boston before and was slightly disoriented. She decided to go outside and get something to eat. Going out probably wasn’t the best idea since she spent so much time on a bus and felt rather smelly. She stopped by a small grocery store.