Two nights ago, a thunderstorm hit shortly before eleven, water howling down from the sky and drowning against our windows. I was still awake, but the storm was so fierce that I closed my laptop and sat up straight, eyes wide as the winds flagged and flattened my curtains. Marooned on my bed, wild winds all around me, mosquito net adrift, falling over my hair to bride me, and I’m too old to fear storms, but my fists were clenched.
A crack - a bang - an explosion of thunder, the loudest I’ve ever heard, as if the firmament shattered into pieces above our heads, and a flash of ghastly yellow lightning like death to my dazzled eyes.
I heard the next day that my favourite tree, the shapely, dignified one on the way to Kiboko Bay, was struck that night.
Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. But the rules don’t apply in Africa. Only a few hours ago, the sky was dull, bloody maroon, but it was no promise of calm waters. Tonight it is storming again. The power went off when I had just gotten into the shower, so I pulled open the curtain to watch the lightning. Purple, yellow, all these bruise-coloured, breathtaking gasps of light across the sky, and me watching, with hot water and rain running down my face. Lightning grazing my skin and I feel transparent, blank-hearted, unseen beneath the light that penetrates clouds and eyelids.
It occurred to me that I could easily be struck, surrounded by water, and I mulled over the idea for another few minutes, guessing where the puddles around the house would be by the direction of the driving rain under a single orange lamp.
Thunder like boulders rolling, growling not far away. The rain washes the air clean. The curtains are soaking wet.
Yes, I feel detached. Indistinct, unwilling. When did I get so cold? So heartless? My blood once ran fiery with feeling and love, my heart extravagant. Weeping over music. Seeing literal red, trembling with rage. But I hoard emotion now, sharing morsels of wrath and adoration with just a few.
Reading my moody teenage diaries, I know this was my greatest fear. To become numb. To lose passion and desperation, replace frustration and yearning with bland contentment. I cherished those violent feelings, even as they tore and cannibalised me. I’m certain I’m happier this sensible way, overall, but what did I lose when I finally grew up?
And do I want it back?
Do I ever really want anything now? The way I did?