The phone rings and my worst fears are verified as quickly as the popping of the cork from the bottle of Chablis red last night.
“It looks like I’m grounded, honey.”
“I’m just glad you arrived safely,” I mutter, lying coolly. My true feelings break the richter scale of one to ten and settle in an uncomfortably intense twelve. We begin with, relief for having arrived prior to the storm, anxiety that he’ll be in midst of the scariest hurricane to hit the US, sadness for having to share him with business associates abroad, eagerness to finally spend some time alone and investigate The Incident further, fear that I’ll be nestling in the lion’s den on my own -save for Joe the Giant- and ultimately emotional and physical deprivation for as a matter of fact I shall be spending a whole bleaming week away from him. And who the fuck’s gonna make my worry ease away when he’s stranded -hardly, but still – in bloody New York, miles and miles away from me when such a cataclysmic event is about to unfold?
I cough and swallow down a knot of stress, fear and panic.
“So what are your plans for this evening?” His voice is rushed.
“You’re staying in with Joe and Tamara, yes?” He continues breathing heavily. I can trace worry in his words, even amidst the war of pretended nonchalance that he so elegantly deploys. “Oh yes. My babysitters have increased from one to two, recently. Have you no worry master. I shall stay put.”
“You make me laugh…” Indeed, a tiny chuckle escapes him that I can only barely discern from the background noise.
“Erm… Dima, what is this noise?”
“Ah yes, I’ve been meaning to tell you about this and I’ll do it in a hurry ’cause as far as I can see…”
“…I’ve not got much time.”
“Time for what? Dima?”
“It’s rather stupid but listen, they’re…”
“Dima, you’re breaking up…”
“OTT Americans, Bella. What can I say. Anyway you know where I’m staying, right?”
“The Plaza, yes, I remember.”
“OK so I’ve got to run. Try to remember what I asked you before I left.”
“Erm, where I packed your favourite Boss socks?”
“Bella, are… you insane?”
“Right, not the socks, silly, silly me. Erm, you asked if I had planned a trip for March.”
“Yeah, it wasn’t a trick question, Bella. Have you?”
“Well… we’ll talk when you get back, Dima. What the fuck is this noise?”
“I think it’s the wind…”
Wind? Not by a longshot. That was a gargling sound enriched with heavy thumping and violent glass-breaking. Oh no. Where has he got himself into this time?
“Dima? Hello, are you still there?”
The phone goes dead. His silence and my guilt join hands as they hook their pointy spears all around my neck. How could I have misjudged his acuteness? How could I have been so blind? All I know is that I’m missing someone and that he’s stranded in a state-of-emergency-New-York. Hardly my cup of tea.
I hope he stays safe. Please let him stay safe.
And the million-dollar-question, is: when you’re in the eye of the hurricane, what is your first thought?