Big things: Montserrat’s big explosion. I did mention that I’m only a few miles from the western hemisphere’s most dangerous and most active volcano, didn’t I? It blew on a Sunday, last July; I was studying like mad for an exam the next day and never so much as peeked outside. So it was an enormous surprise when I opened the door the next morning, and the world appeared to be covered in snow. My car had several inches of rain-cemented ash on it; the streets and houses and landscaping were all whitewashed. Planes were grounded for days (until a rain washed some of it away – the stuff kills engines). I had to change my oil, my air filter, my fuel filter, and hose off my car’s engine. Having flown in a helicopter tour over the Soufrere Hills volcano only a few months earlier, I could imagine, pretty vividly, what the explosion must’ve been like. The pyroclastic flows evidently move at about 130 miles per hour. As the “exclusion zone” of the island grows, its population dwindles…once the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, poor Montserrat may not be habitable at all in a few years, all its precious, unique species lost forever, its cultural identity subsumed by the host countries that take in its people. Like seeds, scattered to the wind, planting an entirely new life.
Bill Clinton (yes, the former president) came to speak in St. Kitts last year; the topic was the HIV/AIDS crisis in the Caribbean, and the William Clinton Foundation (attempting to negotiate for affordable treatment/medications for the HIV-plagued countries down here). Evidently the Prime Minister requested that he help with the problem, specifically. (Treatment notwithstanding, unless the societal bent for early promiscuity and condonation of pregnancy in one’s early teens are changed, the epidemic will continue to grow.) I was in class at the time he spoke, and so was unable to attend; Kevin went to see him, however, and reported that he was a surprisingly persuasive and facile public speaker. Go figure.
Last of 2003: The Bing Crosby Christmas Album saga...Once upon a time, I used to hide my Mom’s Bing Crosby Christmas album (in places she believed she might have put it – cruel, but hey, my sanity was important to me), to avoid having to listen to it at Christmas. Did I mention that I don’t like Bing Crosby? (Nothing personal, Bing; I don’t like any of the crooners – you’re a sappy, smarmy lot with no real musicality.) So this last Christmas, I think as punishment, everywhere I went I was forced to listen to it – at the new seafood restaurant in St. Kitts, in the many airports I found myself in while traveling to the States, in shopping malls and elevators and taxi cabs and hotel lobbies – even at friends’ houses. MESSAGE RECEIVED! I repent my wicked ways! Just PLEASE stop inflicting the Bing Crosby Christmas album on me!
The saga of the Old Man Smell: this is a Kevin thing. For months, now, he periodically will start sniffing random objects – the phone, restaurant booths, clothing, ME – saying that there’s this “old man smell” present which he hates. I asked him if perhaps it was him? He didn’t like the idea. Gotta be something stuck up his nose.
2004: oh boy. Another year of change (and like all years of change, full of pain). It started with about 20 straight days of rain (which I love, but which made the tourists glum), followed by a friend of mine – one of our brightest and best-loved – being murdered at his home. Why? No one knows. Danny made friends wherever he went, and wasn’t the sort to pick fights with the locals. He had nothing obviously of value (his car was the biggest piece of crap on the island – it was miraculous that the thing still drove). The student body, en masse, loved him. He lived in what’s known to be a “bad area” – but plenty of people in “nice areas” are broken into every day (the escalation of crimes against students, particularly violent crime, has been rising uncontrollably – or at least uncontrolledly – in St. Kitts). He knew how to handle himself in dangerous situations (he told me that he was headed for the Navy seals after graduating from military school, but changed his mind and decided to pursue emergency medicine, instead – this guy was no victim). The FBI was called in to perform the investigation; nothing has turned up, as of yet. But we live on an island with fewer than 40,000 people, and everyone is related to everyone else (no joke: someone recently did their Ph.D. on the interrelatedness of the Kittitian population – it’s the most inbred population in the world). SOMEONE knows who did it – most likely, many someones. Perhaps they’re holding out for reward money for information. Perhaps they condone the action (within days of the murder, people came up to students in the grocery store, on the street, telling them they “had brought this on themselves”). The government gave us the same old platitudes, the same wind they’ve been blowing up our skirts all along. When we call 911 the police don’t respond. I have seen no evidence for the increased police patrols they promised us. Criminals, when caught, are immediately released, and immediately commit more crimes. Ross gave us a whole big announcement of how they were going to work to improve our safety – complete with plans – but I haven’t heard any updates, recently. I can only hope they’re actually working on making the student housing security patrol a reality. This island sucks the life out of you – it’s a vicious, soulless place run by people with no work ethic, who feel that white = owes them a living. Even other islanders hate St. Kitts – and traveling, the difference between St. Kitts and everywhere else is enormous, is immediately palpable. At least I know a few people who are exceptions to the rule, here. Enough about this island; at least my education is sound, and I have the opportunity to travel to better islands while I’m down here.
Then, during the MIDDLE of my two weeks of exams, Kevin decided that it was time to end the marriage. Granted, it hasn’t been working, and we’ve been miserable for more than a year, now – but the middle of midterms? I’ve been a wreck. We’ve only really started talking the last couple of days; more stuff has come to light since. Apparently, my observations weren’t that far off: he has never really wanted to be married, didn’t think it through before he committed to it, doesn’t want to make room in his life for someone else’s determinism, wants no obstacles to his own autonomy, has no tolerance for anyone else’s flaws, doesn’t want to commit himself to supporting anyone else, wants the “better” and not the “worse”. Sounds like he would have preferred not even having a live-in girlfriend. Sounds like what he really wants is a date who can go vacationing with him, and who makes no demands. Perhaps he’s having his midlife crisis early. Perhaps, when he returns to the States, he’ll actually start thinking about what he really wants. Perhaps someday, he’ll be ready for a marriage. Perhaps not. Regardless, here I am again, having chosen poorly, wanting and needing so very much from my romantic relationships and failing to choose the people who are able to fill those needs (like unconditional acceptance, like appreciation of who I really am). Thank god for my friends, who have been supportive, caring, understanding (and absorbent). (Laura: I got your wonderful card the day after this happened – I cried and cried. Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and kindness – you’ve been an inspiration to me for years, now.) I hate cynicism, but I don’t think I’ll do this again – I’m tired of committing resources I cannot afford to lose. I just hope I can learn to find the fulfillment I’ve always craved in friends, in career, and in myself. It’s probably a moot point, anyhow – I’m so damn particular about the people I choose, and here I am, 35, overweight, looking older than I am, with poor self-esteem and a career that devours all of my time. And an addiction for falling in love, and wanting to make it out to be everything I ever dreamed of. Ah, dreams. Everything else in my life that I have wanted I have dreamed into reality. Everything except love. The years pass and the company around me gets more rarified; I fear dying alone. All of my dreams now are dreams of loss, and I wake crying most mornings. It took me a year to finally start healing from my mother’s death, in the absence of emotional support. I have no idea how long I will be in mourning over the death of my marriage. My mother died thinking that all of her children were well-married, happy, taken care of. She never saw even one of my grade reports – never saw me attain even a single success of my own. She never knew I’d end up solitary again – neither did I. *Sigh* These are the dreams on which promises hang, and die with a whimper, instead of a bang.
Earthen, ashen, stone
Dry-eyed and hollow
Years carved from within me
Time heals all ills
Time will fill me up again
Sand obliterating the lines
That fit around you
Leaving nothing behind you –
In the silence and cicada drone
Who hears this empty-handed fool
Solitary monument to time?
And it will get easier
The sun rises and sets
Life persists implacably
Despite the ache
In the phantom limb.
The reach into emptiness
Will happen less often
Time erasing your footprints
As if you never were
But for the fossil record
Dreaming beneath the surface
Where few will ever find it.
I just finished getting the paper out – http://www.rossvet.edu.kn/Students/students.html (The Centaur). In it is the memorial to my lost friend, and the dream we all wish we could see him complete. Hopefully, they'll get the technical difficulties fixed soon.
Last week I completed the dreaded Terminal Lab – where we euthanize the surgery dogs of the 6th semester students, try to bring them back to life as many times as possible using CPR, and perform a long list of clinical procedures on them post-mortem (we finished at almost 1:00 AM). So now I owe a debt to the canine species which I don’t know I’ll ever be able to repay – but our dog was a superb teacher, and I hope, at least, that the knowledge I gained from her will enable me to be a better vet – and to save other lives.
Last weekend was my midsemester break – I went to Grenada, at the bottom end of the Windward Isles. It was beautiful, and friendly, and lush, and basically everything that St. Kitts is not. I toured Ross’s rival school while I was there – it was fantastic; the facilities put ours to shame (ours have been shameful for a while, however, considering the student population, the age of the campus, and the reputation of the school). Pictures are up: http://homepage.mac.com/copper9lives/Caribbean/PhotoAlbum38.html.
It’s the dry season, again, and my water is shut off from midnight to 8 AM every day (despite rain). So I shower at school – the cleaning ladies come in in the morning, bellowing “Jesus Is My Abortion” (I SWEAR that’s what she was singing) and slamming doors as hard as possible. I don’t think they like students (although it’s hard to tell; the entire culture has been raised without being taught consideration for others). I don’t especially care.
I rescued another kitten in January; she was sitting in the wheel well of my jerk next-door neighbor’s car, crying her lungs out. (He drives a million miles an hour, and would have squashed her flat.) She was adopted the next day by a really nice student who is working with her to try to overcome the separation anxiety issues she has. Noisy beast! But very loving; I’m sure she’ll make a great cat. Calicos seem popular among the student body; I prefer oranges. A friend of mine rescued a tiny little injured black kitten – his foot had been mangled beyond repair, but she had a job catching him anyway. With serious physical therapy, she was able to restore some use and feeling to the limb, but it was badly crushed by a bite, and causes him pain – it’ll have to be amputated when she gets back to the States to improve the little guy’s quality of life. He sure is an adorable, charming little guy. There are so many helpless, starving, injured, diseased, miserable animals here…I wish I could save them all.