FIJI, CHAPTER 3: Cyclone Keni

Barry’s and Joan’s pond bure was smaller than mine, but it had a concrete wall separating their bed from my “guest” bed. I dragged my bed away from the windows and pushed it up against the concrete divider. There was no giant window in the bathroom, which was a plus. Though, I still felt uncomfortable that my emergency bathroom trips would now become public knowledge, since there would be four of us crammed into one room.

I cringed at the knock at the door. I was sure that Tim would be happily moving in at any moment. Instead, I opened the door to a Fijian man wearing a hard hat. “Bula! We’ll be serving dinner in the dining room now.” Shelia had told us they would drop off dinner to our bures.  Surprised, I asked, “Is it safe out there?” He replied calmly, “The wind is only 130 kilometers. Just watch out for the coconuts.” I called after him, “Wait! What’s 130 kilometers?” He was already off to the next bure.

I was transported to the time when I climbed the steps to my apartment in Maui, and I hit the ground at what I thought was a gunshot or a small explosion. I ran back down the stairs to find a coconut resting on the hood of my car. It was a clear, sunny day. There’s a saying that divers use to convince non-water people we aren’t crazy, which goes: You’re more likely to be killed by a falling coconut than you are by a shark. At this moment, I took this saying very seriously. I realized that there was no dignified way to die, but there was a growing possibility that my obituary was going to read:

Megan died, shitting her pants, as she was critically struck on her noggin by a falling coconut as she ran to the bathroom during Cyclone Keni in clusterfiji hell. She was incapable of skipping even one horrifying curry meal that quite possibly was mongoose. 

Again, I was presented with two choices: 1.) Risk embarrassing death by coconut and maybe get to eat something other than curry, but still end up in embarrassing bathroom situation or 2.) Starve, but remain safe and free from bathroom troubles until my next meal.

I splashed through the flooded grounds as I attempted to sprint to the dining room.

In the roaring wind, I barely heard my name, “Megan!” I turned around to find Jennifer sitting alone under a gazebo next to the pool. “Jennifer! Where have you been? Are you okay?” She started to cry as she told me a story about how she had been too afraid to join us for meals because Stormy and Nick were spreading lies to everyone that she was crazy and off her meds. “Wait, what?” I asked. She sobbed on, and said she believed Nick was having an affair with Stormy. And, Stormy flew into a rage when Jennifer confronted her about it.

She added that Nick injects steroids, and he was having withdrawals– and she was absolutely terrified of him. “Alright, look, a cyclone is coming, and we’re out here under this makeshift thing that’s probably going to collapse on us at any moment. When was the last time you ate?” She stuttered, “I…I…well, I brought these bars from home.” I assured her, “Okay, here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to sit with me in the dining room. We will sit on the complete opposite side of the room as Stormy and Nick. And, you’re going to eat something. Are you ready?” She nodded.

We walked into the dining room and sat next to Barry, Joan, and Tim. Jennifer whispered to me, “Can I stay with you tonight?” I whispered back, “Let me check if it’s safe, otherwise, we have to stay with Barry and Joan.” I found Brad and Shelia standing next to the bar, and I asked Shelia for an update on the cyclone, and if it was safe for Jennifer and I to stay in my beachfront bure. Shelia asked, “It’s still on track for 10pm and why, is everything okay?” I responded, “Well, Jennifer is pretty upset and…” Brad interrupted, “Megan, don’t get sucked into Jennifer’s drama. She is off her meds.”

I was shocked. “Brad, you shouldn’t be telling anyone that, including me.” I walked back to my seat. “Jennifer, we are completely f#cked here. We’re on our own in another country and there is a cyclone coming. And, I am really sick. Whatever people are saying about you doesn’t matter. The safest place for us to be is in Barry’s and Joan’s….”

Suddenly, I felt a hard whap on my back. A hand appeared on my shoulder and a woman’s voice erupted into my ear, “Made a new friend, I see. That’s fine, but I warn you…” Stormy turned to the entire dining room and announced, “She THREATENED me, and she’s a LIAR! But, that’s okay! Just be careful!” She let go of my shoulder and laughed as she walked back to her seat. The divers were quiet. I turned to Jennifer who was now sobbing. I then looked over at Brad, who did nothing. Barry and Joan continued to play cribbage. A steak with absolutely no curry on it appeared in front of me. I turned to Jennifer and said, “Let’s eat at Barry’s and Joan’s bure.” She nodded.

Jennifer and I carried our steaks to Barry’s and Joan’s bure. I sank down in a chair, balanced my plate on my lap, and between hurried bites of steak, managed to spit out, “I’m so sorry that this is happening to you….I mean, what the hell just happened?…You should really try the steak…It’s a little red, but if you just don’t look at it it’s fine…I remember you didn’t feel well the first few days in Socorro, and I thought that’s why you weren’t around…I get why the Fijians used to be into cannibalism, you know…I’m going to BBQ Brad…but, then Nick seemed so short with me, so I figured maybe you were mad at me…Seriously, steak cures everything. You need to eat…You realize you’re being bullied, right? And, now I’m being bullied just for talking to you…Jennifer?” Jennifer’s sad eyes looked through me, but not at me, as she firmly concluded, “My marriage is over. What am I going to tell my kids?” I stopped chewing and said, “What’s important right now is making it home to them.”

Jennifer picked at her steak, while I ran to the bathroom. From the other side of the bathroom door, she said, “The reason I’m not sick is because I brought bars from home with me. Do you want one?” I yelled back, “No! I think the damage is done. But, do you have any Imodium?” “No.” “Do you have anything to read?” “Yeah, what do you want?” I exited the bathroom in excitement. She tossed me a Cosmopolitan magazine. I smiled, “Oh, look, How to Pleasure your Man in 10 Ways. This is exactly what will help me get through this cyclone.” She smirked, “Yeah, don’t show that to Tim.” I laughed, “That’s not funny. You have no idea what I’ve been dealing…” BOOM!! I jumped. BAM! BOOM! POW! I yelled, “Holy crap! Are those coconuts hitting the roof?” Jennifer flipped a page of a book she was skimming through, “Nothing surprises me at this point.”

There was a knock at the door, and I let Barry and Joan inside. Joan was out of breath in her excitement, “You have to see the ocean! The waves are huge! I was watching them, and Barry pulled me back before one hit me! And, there’s coconuts bouncing off of the bures everywhere! Get out there and see it, girls!” Barry looked annoyed, “Don’t go back out there, Joan.” I peeked out of the curtain and saw the hard-hatted Fijians ushering divers back to their bures. Barry and Joan crawled into their bed. I pulled the comforter off of my bed and placed it in on the sofa for Jennifer. I gave up on the Cosmopolitan magazine since the coconuts continued to hit the roof, and I clutched a Fiji Gold and focused on the curtains instead. The humidity was unbearable. Barry and Joan appeared to be asleep. Jennifer continued reading with her book light. I could smell Jennifer’s steak, so I moved it to the porch outside. I figured the worst that could happen was a cockroach or two.

At 10pm when cyclone Keni was timed to hit us, I heard the metal utensils jingling back and forth on the plate on the porch. I was pretty sure cockroaches weren’t strong enough to move utensils, but I could never be certain of the capabilities of cockroaches. I began to fear what sort of creature I had unintentionally invited to Barry’s and Joan’s porch. I opened the door and two dogs pushed past me and jumped onto Barry’s and Joan’s bed. “Omigod!” I yelled. I heard Barry’s voice in the dark, “Is there a dog on top of me?” I stood on the porch with the door wide open and yelled, “Come here, dogs! Come!” The dogs raced off the bed towards me, and I closed the door behind me. They curled up together on the lounge chairs. I picked up the empty plate and brought it inside with me. I chugged the rest of my beer and peeked out of the window. Jennifer asked, “Are they still there?” I sighed, “Yup.”

A few hours later after I ran out of Fiji Gold and moved onto Fiji Bitter, I detached myself from my sweat-soaked sheets and peeked out of the window again. The dogs were gone. The palm trees stood still. The rain stopped. I heard the kissy-chirp chatter of bats resume. I woke up Jennifer and told her I was going back to my bure to get some sleep. I left my belongings in the room and walked back to my bure. The grounds were covered in fallen palm tree fronds and coconuts. I opened my front door, locked it behind me, climbed into my big bed, and fell into a deep sleep.

The screeches of fighting bats jolted me awake. What time was it? What day was it? Where was I? I left my phone back at Barry’s and Joan’s bure. I rolled out of bed, walked to the end of my backyard, and climbed down the wall to the beach. The tide was the lowest I had seen since my arrival. The water was like glass. Blue herons balanced in the shallows. Hermit crabs wobbled in the sand. I picked up an empty shell and placed it in front of a hermit crab. The crab climbed out of his shell and into the new one. I hunted for more shells to offer the hermit crabs.

I joined Tim and Jennifer at the bar for breakfast. The other divers and the hotel staff picked up debris at the beach in a collective silence. Tim remarked, “They’re saying the winds reached 110 mph last night.” I shook my head in disbelief. Cyclone Keni had pummeled Kadavu Island behind us. Jennifer asked me if I would go with her to her bure and help pack up her stuff so she could move into my bure.

Suddenly, Brad stood up and made an announcement, “Hey everyone, diving is back on tomorrow…” The sun pushed through the clouds for the first time and cheers echoed across the beach and the hotel grounds. Jennifer and I quickly walked to her bure, threw her things into her bags, and made it back to my bure without running into Nick. When we reached my porch, there was a little black cat waiting for us. Jennifer laughed, “Word must have got out you fed those dogs steak.” 

That night, Jennifer called the dive shop owner and demanded that Brad escort her back to the airport the next morning. She asked me if I would go with her. “I probably should go considering how sick I am, but if I leave this island without doing the shark dive, I’ll forever regret it. I’m sorry.” She said, “It’s okay, I get it. But, if I don’t get out of here, I’m going to lose it.”

A cockroach scuttled across the tiled floor. I sighed, “I can handle the tarantulas and the cyclones and Tim and Stormy, but I am not dealing with that damned cockroach. I’m done.” Jennifer balled up a piece of toilet paper and smashed the cockroach. “Oh, Megan, you’re so dramatic.” I squealed, “Make sure it’s really dead!”

The little black cat meowed outside. Jennifer didn’t eat her dinner again, so I placed her fish filet on the porch. The filet was almost as big as the cat, but the cat gripped it with all four paws and devoured it within a minute. I returned to my bed and quickly fell asleep.

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