Come Monday

By Meg Worden

Memoir


We stood outside The Copa watching drag queens pull suitcases tied with feather boas, smeared with lipstick and glitter into the infamous nightclub. The air was thick and still. Instead of moving around, it pushed in and down on us, like gravity.

The barometric pressure drops lower than low before a hurricane.

My boyfriend, Jimmy, and I took a final breath before dragging our own things, two suitcases, sleeping bags, our cockatiel, Sonny, in his cage along with the tension of our precarious relationship through the doors of the Italian restaurant where we would be riding out Hurricane Georges – a category three hurricane headed directly for our island home of Key West.

Fourteen people, four dogs, two cats and our bird gathered in the restaurant to wait out the storm. While most of the residents and all of the tourists had evacuated the island, we’d opted to stay, and in little groups of threes and fours we listened at the back door and peeked through the cracks in the plywood covering the windows, waiting with a combined excitement, dread, for the forces of nature to remind us of our particular human- ness, to demand that we relinquish ourselves, powerless before the face of God as it surged forth from the heavens.

Dining tables were transformed into activity centers. Someone had set out puzzles on one, and another had a couple of guitars, and a harmonica. Another was covered with paper, scissors and paints. That’s where Maggie sat. The beautiful girl from Queens that Jimmy was falling in love with.  It was obvious how much he was into her, preferred her company to mine. He told me he liked the way she said “Moms.”

“There’s a whole group of people here that get up in the morning and go kayaking and biking and aren’t hung over everyday.” He had said to me when he first met her.

I responded by looking at him like he was crazy talking.

While some sat around putting the puzzles together and strumming the guitars, others filled the bar stools sipping wine, rolling joints and giggling through hazy, gray smoke rings.

I was one of them.

The part of me that could deny my own rampant infidelity and nurture monster-sized jealousy of Maggie could fill the room, hang off the edge of the island, spill onto the reef and impale itself on the jagged edge of a wrecked ship.

I drank to that.

Jimmy said I should come home before dawn once in awhile.

I said, Don’t cramp my style.

By the time the storm hit, it was demoted to a category one. But it was still strong enough to bend palm trees in half, send rooftops flying like carpets down the center of Duval street and blow thousands of terrified little birds with bright orange and electric blue wings all the way from Cuba. One would land shivering underneath the Bougainvillea bushes outside the back door.

I tried to save it, cupping it in my palms and nestling it into a box with water and some of Sonny’s birdseed. I tried to save it by sheer-willing it to live. It was lying all cold and stiff the next morning, its tiny legs curled like telephone wire on its chest.

The parallel was completely lost on me.

We were fortunate to be connected to a small generator and propane tank and we heartily took to the task of emptying the walk-in refrigerator before the food spoiled and wasted.

By candlelight, the chefs prepared buffets of cheese and berries for breakfast, antipasto for lunch and for dinner we pushed tables together, set them with linens, silver and crystal stemware for family-style Italian dinners; heaping trays of medium-rare filet mignon, baskets of crispy carta de musica, toasty brushettas, pomodoro pasta and spicy arugula salads dripping with truffle oil.

Afterwards we sipped creamy cappuccinos till nothing was left but the sweetest, foamiest bits to mix into our tiny glasses of grappa. Like jet fuel, we joked. Drinking grappa made our eyes become glassy little slits, caused our laughter to break out in gusts.

As I worked my way to the back door to smoke my mind burned with the image of  Jimmy, at dinner, leaning in to Maggie’s every word, unabashedly held rapt by her perfect bone structure and bright, salty eyes.

It was obvious.

I held onto the door jam for support, my legs, full to the thighs with Barolo and Aquavit, and lit the wrong end of my cigarette while the wind blew the whole entire sea right up onto the island with a howl, a force, a screaming gale that shook the walls, ripped holes in the rooftop, sent briny rivers down the sidewalks.

Cayo Hueso shook and rattled its long dead bones.

I’d like to scream that loud, I thought. I’d like to blow the whole world down.

I imagined Jim and Maggie would be caught in my outburst and be thrown out into the atmosphere until they were just tiny specks that eventually disappeared. Like debris.

During the ethereal eye of the hurricane that passed directly over us we cautiously opened the doors and took intrepid walks through an atmosphere, heavy and silent as a wool cloak, a vacuum. We said Hey to the drag queens peeking their stubbled chins out of the Copa before we all had to hide away again from a wind that blew in from the opposite direction, bending the palm trees over to the other side. Their fronds would be left vertical and askew, like wild, punk rock hair.

The giant banyan in the front yard of Shel Silverstein’s house on Williams Street fell over during this backhanded wind. Rumor said it was the tree that inspired The Giving Tree, a beautiful book about a tree that loves, unconditionally, a selfish little boy.

Its enormous root ball lay wet on the sidewalk, exposed and vulnerable, its trunk, cracked and broken.

I would read in the Miami Herald about the death of Shel Silverstein seven months later, an event that lay to rest a powerful piece of my childhood. He was downed, like his tree, by a massive heart attack at the age of sixty-eight.

We became goldfish in a bowl, swimming circles around the dining room during the second half of the storm.  The novelty worn, everyone wanting a shower, some privacy. Round and round we passed, wearing expressions that said, “You again?” The smell of wet leaves, algae and unearthing seeped in through the leaking ceiling, dripped with a plipplipplip into plastic bus tubs on the floor.

Georges raged on by his own set of rules.

The great storm ended, as all things do, even trees, and birds and poets. Even love. It eventually dissipated, melted into driving, then drizzling rain, and moved up into mainland Florida late on a Sunday night. The next morning, as the sun peeked through the cloud cover, the DJ’s on the crackling transistor radio that had kept us connected to the world that week chose Jimmy Buffet’s Come Monday as the first song since the evacuations began.

Someone, maybe even Beautiful Maggie From Queens, turned up the volume.

Come Monday, it’ll be all right.
Come Monday, I’ll be holding you tight.

To this day, that song transports me.

And, of course, we were all right. We had survived the storm and would come, over the years to survive many other things.

But it was she, not me, that he was holding tight.

That Monday.


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Meg Worden is a mother, master of complications and manifestor of abundance. She has been a columnist for the Lovely County Citizen in Eureka Springs AR and placed first for Ascent Magazine’s text writing contest in 2008. Meg believes a sense of humor is far more important than a sense of direction and knows for a fact she can laugh wildly amidst severest woe. Currently Meg is living in Portland, OR where she stays up late at night working on her memoir project about the two years she spent in Federal Prison. Find her at megworden.com

26 responses to “Come Monday”

  1. Solar says:

    Wow. Always wow when I read you. Also wow, knowing everything else going on before and after. Also wow, not knowing anything. I can smell the air in this one. I can feel the muscles that control the constriction in your chest cavity. I can see your eyes, not even needing to look, but seeing everything. You are SO amazing.

    As for The Giving Tree, I was just ranting about it yesterday for a few minutes. My rant: The Giving Tree was not about a tree’s unconditional love. It was about an entitled boy who takes and takes and takes until there is nothing left to take. My children will never hold this book.

    Love you.

    • Meg Worden says:

      Ha about the Giving Tree. I have to say, that, the entitlement reference was what I was vying for here (obviously)…but I do still adore the book. Shel was a favorite. His stories, not candy coated, but cut-to-the-quick true. It just wouldn’t ache the same if it wasn’t an accurate reference to human behavior. I think the tree was unconditional (I’ve yet to meet a selfish tree). But yes, the boy was definitely a self serving little prick.

      But you…thank you for the righteous love. And the righteous LOVE.

      • Sarah says:

        When I thought about the story of the tree in Shel’s book and then learning of it’s being ripped from the earth by the hurricane, it was almost the saddest part of the story. Aside from the little bird. I think, or would like to think that almost everything that happens to us in life, we would learn from, and it changes us, and makes us aware. By this new awareness we transform our lives into something better, for ourselves, our children and those around us.
        I love you Meg!

        • Meg Worden says:

          Sarah! Yes, I agree that awareness is definitely the crucial bit. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. xo

        • Sarah says:

          Geez Meg,
          I was thinking back about those times, I mean I always thought you were the coolest chick and still are, you have changed so much since then and now seem much more grounded in who you are. We both have changed actually, thankfully. It seems almost impossible that one could grow (sorry if our mom’s are reading this) in such an emotionally unstable environment, and come out of it to learn from those experiences and become, like you, such a great mother and person.

  2. Solar says:

    Shel is and was a favorite. Especially for his ability to see human nature. I would more likely give this to an older child for that reason. No need to harden my toddlers. Life will take care of that anyway.

    As for your thanks, we’re in it together and I’m just the witness this round.

  3. Zara Potts says:

    Lovely evocative piece, Meg.

  4. Joe Daly says:

    You have a nice self awareness in your style that creates a strong sense of empathy, even when you’re acknowledging some difficult choices. Loved the intimate feel of the room and all the drama floating around like the rings of smoke.

    Glad you checked in with a new piece and really dug the read.

    Hope your travels are going well!

    • Meg Worden says:

      Thanks for that, Joe. Great to hear it from you.

      It was intimate, that room.
      Maybe a little too intimate, smelly, etc..
      But memorable, for sure.
      And delicious.

      The travels have quieted some. We landed in Portland and are going through the getting settled part.
      The travels have turned to travails.
      But I prefer interesting so I’m in my element when I’m thrown from it. 🙂

  5. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Hey Meg,

    The imagery is wonderfully vivid and the understated tension is done with great humor.
    For some reason, even by the end, this still sticks out:
    He told me he liked the way she said “Moms.”

    My son and I read The Giving Tree; even as he gets older, it’s tradition. We love to laugh at the almost obscene headshot of Shel on the back jacket. What a weirdo. I want to see his house.

    • Meg Worden says:

      Thanks Lisa. Funny you picked that line…does it make sense? I thought after writing..it probably only makes sense for anyone who has spent any time on the East Coast..

      Shel’s house was cool. I had a friend that had been inside and I guess he collected cool creepy artisan masks. Like mardi gras type.
      I loved him. I would stand outside his place and stare for ages. I guess it was a second home, so I never did see him.
      Which is probably best…the way I was stalking around he probably would have had me arrested.

  6. Judy Prince says:

    This post goes beyond good and into excellent, Meg. I’m stoked at its poetry, its multi-layered meanings, its beauty packed with import, its digging into my emotions, quiet and relentless. I’m awed and energised. Congratulations. And thank you for your brilliant writing.

    • Meg Worden says:

      You, Judy Prince, just made my week.

      • Judy Prince says:

        Meg, your post awestrikes. The first strike was embedded in this sentence:

        “My boyfriend, Jimmy, and I took a final breath before dragging our own things, two suitcases, sleeping bags, our cockatiel, Sonny, in his cage along with the tension of our precarious relationship through the doors of the Italian restaurant where we would be riding out Hurricane Georges – a category three hurricane headed directly for our island home of Key West.”

        ” . . . in his cage along with the tension of our precarious relationship . . . ”

        At that point, I had to note that this clear-writing, live-detailed-packing writer (you) was going a yard beyond the usual by metaphoring her emotions INSIDE the physical markers of her text. It could’ve been a fluke, I thought, and kept on reading.

        And in the next paragraph you smacked me with this:

        ” . . . we listened at the back door and peeked through the cracks in the plywood covering the windows, waiting with a combined excitement, dread, for the forces of nature to remind us of our particular human- ness, to demand that we relinquish ourselves, powerless before the face of God as it surged forth from the heavens.”

        So now you’d done it again, as well as lent us a cosmic dimension, a philosophy of tension which foretells the complicated jealousy you were about to prise out of us, vicariously, in the paragraph that followed, and which establishes the core of the story, that accursed “beautiful girl from Queens.”

        And then the paragraph that damns you with Jimmy’s words:

        ” ‘There’s a whole group of people here that get up in the morning and go kayaking and biking and aren’t hung over everyday.’ He had said to me when he first met her.”

        On you went, rolling poetry into the sum of story, the tense mysteries of your psyche’s entanglements seductively exposed, the characters locked in oft-ignorant emotional inevitable frozen combat.

        Oh yeah, Meg, all you have to do is sing some more in bunches of weeks of glorious writing for us to breathe through. Well done, my dear; thoroughly well done.

        • Meg Worden says:

          Oh dear, Judy. Now I want to take you out to dinner and a movie.

          I’m both humbled and infinitely grateful.

          Ta.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Awwww…..that’s sweet, Meg. But it’s you doing the magnificent writing; I’m just reacting to it.

          It is wonderful and appropriate, I think, for you to be grateful to your own bundle of selves, however they were created in you, for getting on so beautifully with your writing. It’s a permanent beauty, too. Awesome.

          If you’re in Darlington UK, Rodent and I will take you to Sardi’s (two brothers from Sardinia who know really fresh, creative, delicious food prep) to celebrate. And a glass of red wine would not be amiss.

          Ta, too, and chirs!

        • Meg Worden says:

          That will just have to happen. I’m looking forward to it. 🙂

  7. Gloria says:

    Sad, and slow, and beautifully written, Meg.

  8. Meg Pokrass says:

    amazement, and a great discovery. what a voice you have. honest as hell and poetic as hell.

  9. myron says:

    Amazing Meg.. I look forward to reading more

  10. gorgeous, poignant and deep. thank you.

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