before and after




He dumped me just days before Irma hit the Keys. Right when I was freaking out. He wasn’t my boyfriend—he was my gay friend, my first friend on the island, my very dear and only friend ‘till I started working. He once told me, “I don’t like a lot of people but I like you so you’re stuck with me.” And just weeks before the break up, we chatted for hours, rather, he chatted for hours. He told me things about himself that I never knew, that I never assumed—along with a couple of the repeat stories he loved to tell. It sure did hurt like he was my boyfriend.

I was dumped by a girlfriend once before, but, Jesus, that was 40 years ago, some left-over, high school behavior. And I know several women who have been dumped by lovers and others for a variety of stupid reasons, but I don’t know what happened this time. Of course, I understood what was said in the text, but it was so unexpected, so harsh. In one sentence he called me PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE and I must say my girlfriends back home had a good laugh over that—nothing passive about me. This was my first Florida hurricane and it was a monster. Hell yeah, I was needy, scared to death. I had no husband, no boyfriend, no girlfriend, no neighbors, no car, no exit strategy. I knew nothing. “MY ADVICE TO YOU, GET OFF THE ISLAND!” Why would a grown man write me off like he did? Bulging capital letters. I mean, if I didn’t like you, or decided I didn’t like you anymore, I would stop being available or not take your calls, not respond to your messages till you got the message. Right? Or if you were really a good friend, I would tell you what a pain in the ass you were being and we’d talk about it and move on. Right? I did reach out at Thanksgiving but got no response, and I did give a hearty “Hello” one time when I passed my (former) friend on my bike and again, nothing. I find it so sad. Something shifted and I never saw it coming—ill winds blowing up from behind, taking me by surprise.



I’ve got bad tree karma. I’ve known this for a long time, thinking once that in a previous life I set forest fires and vengeful trees were my lot. I’ve lost trees to tornados, nor’easters, ice-storms and disease. I’ve lived under Black Walnuts that unloaded pungent, green orbs filled with maroon tar on the sidewalk. I’ve lived in a forest of Oaks, many of which were diseased and desperately trying to save their own species by over-producing. Two months or more of leaf raking, acorns everywhere, oak sprouts everywhere, acorn hail on the cars, the roof. I once saw a tree get hit by lighting, swear to heaven; I was sure it was a sign of some sort. I now live under a Poinciana and play pick-up-sticks while brushing tiny, leaf scabs out of my hair—constantly. But no more cleaning up under the Frangipani that flourished on the other side of the house. The dear, old gal lost her head in the storm and she will never be the same.

I cursed that Frangipani when I first moved in. Charred leaves with yellow undersides that always fell belly up, littering the tidy garden I envisioned. Pitiful, bare, old lady arms, a tumor here and there. And then she bloomed. And I begged her forgiveness which she granted with a full head of hair and the softest of scents. She was my only umbrella on the South side of the house, a surrogate for the orchids, a bridge for the cat’s climb to the fence. I loved that tree. Frangipanis all over the neighborhood and mine was chosen as the sacrificial one. Damnit. Such is my karma or my circumstance. So sad, another loss, another little heartbreak in paradise, another couple of months waiting on the coming and going of a tedious tide and the aftermath of change.


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