Saturday, May 7, 2011

Nameless Storms: Stages of Grief in Alabama

I find it increasingly frustrating that we don't name tornadoes like we name hurricanes. I understand the logic of it, tornadoes are so quick, they are too unpredictable and too numerous to name each dirty funnel that touches the ground. It would be messy and confusing. You can't see a tornado coming for days, scooping up the ocean on its way, as the radio blares evacuation hours before Joseph or Terence or Louise crashes to shore. You name hurricanes because you can watch them for weeks.

You think we won't watch this thing? You think this sinful little storm just whispered to the ground for 30 seconds and now it's gone? Tornadoes don't last for seconds or minutes, they last for years. I can already feel the years in this one deep in my bones. I see myself growing old with this storm.

Stage one, Denial, has come and has gone. The times I was away from the wreckage, blocked by closed roads and kind men in army uniforms, helped me to keep forgetting what had happened and the body count and the bare bones of wood that remained of homes and buildings. But now those wounded ways are open again, and the traffic lights are changing colors and the cars are moving through and I can't not look at it anymore. It seems now to have sunk in, so much so that it is hard to visit untouched places. I visited Cullman to see my grandmother and found the torn apart parts of the city familiar and predictable, where the buildings still held together and undamaged looked foreign and mocking.

Stage two is the stage that needs the name. Stage two, Anger, is coming on with full force. I want to scream at this storm. I want to take my fists fitted with brass knuckles to the face of that tornado and I want to know its name. I want to blame this all on it. I want to take all this pain and anguish and absolute fury and throw it at a name, a thing. I don't want to call it a tornado anymore. I don't want to call it a storm anymore. I want to name the thing that barrels through my dreams every night ripping everything away in its path.

God I am just so angry. Every conversation I am in or overhear, every sentence on every website, every text message and every call and every person I pass is talking about it, reminiscing in this memory I want to disappear. It's in my dreams, it's in my television, it's in my fingertips on this blog and it's in these crying spells that come on for no reason. I drive through my neighborhood and I just want to find the thing that did this, that hurt and ruined so much and so many. I want to rip out its insides and set them on fire.

This is a hurt I've never known. Three years ago I ruined a relationship, lost a job, dropped out of school, and nearly gave my last breath because of heartbreak. And when I came out of it I kept thinking, "That's the worst it will ever get. That was my nightmare, and I survived it. I survived it and I came out so much better and if I can handle that, I can handle anything." I was confident that nothing in the world could stop me. I was invincible and I wore that survivable heartbreak like armor to the world.

And a 200 mile-an-hour wind just blew it away.

There is ache harder than relationships, than drug addicted boyfriends, than car accidents, than failing math class, than losing friends, than losing everything. There is this bigger, different hurt, of overwhelming disaster and death right down your street. There is a house a few blocks from my own with one of those wretched X's on the door. The last number is 1. That nameless storm killed someone in my neighborhood, it orphaned a dog, it destroyed a family. And dear God I am just so furious.

I just wish we named tornadoes. I want to scream out a name when I wake up from these nightmares. I want to write a letter every day to a thing that I can blame. I want to have a word I can say that means more than tornado, that means more than storm. Something I can look at and say, "You won't win you selfish, cruel bastard. You won't take anything else from us.

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you."


  1. I thought the same thing. My girlfriend and I talked about this and even laughed about naming it Voldemort, since it was the most evil name we could think of. The more I thought about it, though, the more I thought what an appropriate conundrum this nameless tornado provides. There are a lot of nameless evils in the world and a lot of faultless crimes. A lot of invisible forces that will walk in uninvited and change the course of our lives forever. As far as I'm concerned it can keep its name to itself, because we have ours.

  2. I thought about Voldemort too! I was thinking it last night except I don't want to taint Harry Potter with tornado memories. I like what you said though, that it can keep its name to itself. I guess it always will.

    And let me say again so wonderfully ecstatic I am that you and Leyna are ok. SO HAPPY.