Sunny and Stormy, we’re just too different…
It was the last thing I ever said to Sunny. It was said in anger, with snake-like venom. Enough venom to kill whatever remaining love and kinship remained. I spat out "we're just too different". I said it in the split second before I slammed the door behind me and stormed off to the bar in the Hotel Monte Carlo. No not the one in the Mediterranean, the one on the shores of Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. The hotel was more of a motel and the lake was just the world's biggest swamp. I was over all this crap. This was the last time that Sunny the selfish Storm-addicted bitch was tricking me. I meant it at the time, but I'd give anything for one more selfish bitch trick now.
I met Sunny at our High School, as far away from a Venezuela Jungle as you can get. Birmingham, England is more of a concrete jungle. I was 15 and waiting to see the headmaster accused of another crime. Also waiting was the new girl, Sunny. She was 14 and different. I think what stood her apart was that she had natural blonde hair but had dyed it raven black. Later I noticed Sunny had emerald-green eyes that had hazel clouds that seemed to move around her pupils. And on the very rare occasions when she smiled it lit things up like lightning does; blasts of light illuminating the darkness hovering around her. All this knowledge was yet to come. We were ushered into the headmaster's office and jointly accused of taking the handbrake off the geography teacher's car and allowing it to roll off across the sports field and into a duck pond. You can judge the quality of our school by the fact that our sports field was on such a slope that a car could gather enough speed to crash through a boundary fence and make it to the middle of a duck pond. You can judge the intelligence of our teaching staff by the fact that they were co-accusing two pupils who had never met before, who were not only in different classes but in different years.
No one could prove anything, and by our teenage years, we knew enough to never admit anything to anyone. Our fifth form unofficial motto was "Denial is not a river in Egypt". Even if someone asked you a straightforward question like is grass green the reply should be something like "only if you smoke it too soon". Sunny and I denied it like OJ, but unlike OJ we were innocent, or maybe not. That's it with Sunny. You never truly knew her truth. Once we were outside the headmaster's office Sunny introduced herself to me. Because she said she was Sunny, I said I was Stormy. That was the first of our lies and tricks to one another. Sunny called me Stormy for 3 months before someone told her the truth. When you are a teenager life travels outrageously slowly. Just one afternoon of lessons stretched out like months. This is made much worse when what you want is to be somewhere else with someone else. By the time Sunny knew my real name we were de-facto boyfriend and girlfriend. But she still called me Stormy. As I retreated from our hotel room ten years later, the last thing she shouted after me was "Fuck off Stormy". Her very last word to me was the lie, Stormy.
Sunny was born unremarkably at a very remarkable time. In England, the weather is extremely tame. A few weeks of sunshine become a drought and three inches of snow becomes a Siberian winter. At the end of the summer of 1976, the papers were all screaming global warming, heat-wave and drought. This was ended by an enormous electrical storm that broke records for England and the only place with more lightning that day was a place called Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. That was the day Sunny chose to be born. All through the throes of labour, the storm raged outside the hospital, once lightning even struck the hospital transformer plunging it into darkness momentarily. An hour later Sunny was born just as the sun broke through the clouds. The midwife peered out the window and said "Oh, look it's Sunny". That was it Sunny was the only name. But here is the thing Sunny never liked sunny weather. Maybe it was the relentless teasing she heard on every sunny day. "Oh, look it's Sunny..... No, not you grumpy girl, the weather”. Unfortunately, Sunny had no middle name to retreat to.
What Sunny really loved was a storm. Long after it was fashionable for hippies, Sunny could be found dancing in the rain. In England, they get a lot of rain, so Sunny danced often. By the time I met Sunny, she had developed that hard candy coating that covered a delicious center. The trouble was that very few people were willing to risk cracking a tooth getting past her hard exterior and she very rarely let anyone try. I got a free pass because she thought my being called Stormy made us more kindred spirits than we were. Shortly after I had met Sunny, during the afternoon break at school there was a torrential downpour. Everyone ran from the sports field and playground, except for Sunny. I didn't know that she hadn't followed me until I heard someone say, "That girl is bat-shit crazy". I looked back and Sunny was like one of those whirling dervishes crossed with a Haitian Voodoo practitioner; just wildly dancing in the rain as if possessed by a rain-worshipping demon. As I looked back out at her I could hear a few people giggling. If I'm honest, I think that's the second that I fell in love with Sunny. I ran down to where she was and urged her to come out of the rain. She refused and if it wasn't back up the hill that I fell in love then it was that very second looking into her eyes. Really noticing those brown clouds skating across her emerald-green pupils, I was definitely in love. The trouble with falling in love with a moment is that once the moment is gone you can never recapture it. Also at that moment, I became aware that what excited Sunny was a storm. “So what”, I thought; “This is perfect, I'm her Stormy”. But deep down, even right then I knew I wasn't Stormy enough. There is absolutely nothing worse in life than being "not enough".
Sunny held my hands in hers and she said, "Dance with Me". We danced together in the rain like the rain was manic drums being beaten to a heavy rock rhythm. At first, people laughed, and at first at us and then they laughed with us, and then a few came to dance with us. After a few minutes, pupils were sliding along the sports pitch like Tom Cruise did in his socks in 'Risky Business". Then people were fully sliding on their stomachs across the sports field which was by now half an inch deep in running water from the torrential downpour. In a few minutes, Sunny went from the butt of the joke to the leader of the pack. An hour later we were standing on sheets of newspaper in the headmaster's office. We didn't care and only the threat of the cane stopped us from holding hands.
Sunny and I became inseparable. When we were 17, we moved into a flat together and by 21 we were married. I would like to say we lived happily ever after in a life of joy and passion, but it's never like that. As much as storms lit Sunny up the good weather depressed her in an equal measure. Blue skies just made her blue; even those beautiful crystal blue skies that only appear over fields of snow depressed her. That was my first real mistake. Because Stormy had shown such an interest in the weather, I wrongly thought a trip to see the Northern Lights would reignite the light that I had seen in her eyes that afternoon at school. I booked a cheap trip for a weekend in Iceland. The Northern Lights were there in all of their glory, but they did nothing for Sunny. When we flew back into Manchester Airport the Control Tower was struck by lightning and that one spark elicited more excitement in Sunny than I ever did.
From there forward chasing storms was what Sunny spent her spare time doing. I joined in as much for the second-hand pleasure of seeing that spark of excitement in her eyes. A week in Oklahoma and Kansas chasing tornados was probably the closest we ever got to being happy with each other. Tornados are black spinning funnels of death spinning erratically with bolts of lightning spilling in and out of them. Most afternoons we spent in a cramped Toyota Tarago chase car with other tornado junkies, there we were bumping across cornfields and driving towards danger when everyone else was driving away. There is adrenaline you get from running towards danger that I knew was prevalent in those who rode into battle. I thought it was all fun until a month after we got home and the three storm chasers, we had been with had their Toyota Tarago sucked up by a Tornado in Tulsa. They were all killed. The same night I confronted Sunny, and she said something that turned my blood cold.
I said, "If we keep doing this shit, we will end up like that".
Sunny Replied, "That's fine by me. What an amazing way to die".
I said, "Sometimes I think we're just too different".
Although we stayed together for the sake of the marriage that was the day we separated. For my 25th Birthday, I wanted to do something special, a celebration of a quarter of a century. I told Sunny that what I wanted to do was go to Angel Falls in Venezuela. For days this sent Sunny into a very black mood. Probably in a deeper funk than I had ever seen her in. And by this time Prozac and Sunny were firm friends. I was on night shift and had made up my mind that I would give in again and spend my birthday with Sunny chasing storms. When I got home Sunny gave me an envelope and told me to open it. At first, I thought it was divorce papers. When I did, I was delighted to see plane tickets to Venezuela and Hotel Reservations for the Hotel Monte Carlo. I didn't realise it at the time, but this was half a country away from Angel Falls. That night we made love with a passion and intensity that had been missing for years. That level of excitement in Sunny should have made me suspicious, but I was delighted for two days. Then I looked at a map.
Sunny had booked us into a Hotel at Lake Maracaibo, or as it is known Lightning Lake. Lake Maracaibo is the most lightning-prone place on earth. As many as 300 days a year there will be lightning storms there. When I realised what she had done I confronted her and she said that we would spend a couple of days at the Lake and then drive down to Angel Falls, given the very poor quality of Venezuela's roads that turned out to be impossible. The excitement in Sunny's eyes was as usual intoxicating and once again I gave in. The day before my birthday we flew to Caracas. It's a nine-hour drive from Caracas to Lake Maracaibo. I spent my 25th birthday driving away from Angel falls, on the wrong side of the road, in a hire car with no air conditioning. It turned into a 12-hour nightmare drive on some horrible roads trying to stay on the right side of the road and avoiding idiots coming the other way on my side of the road. The only way you could call the road a highway is that for most of the trip it seemed to meander along the side of mountains high above white water-strewn rivers.
The hotel Monte Carlo is on the far side of the lake, and we spent the last hour driving through a series of electrical storms. This annoyed me and delighted Sunny in equal measure. At times Sunny had half her body out of the car window screaming like a banshee at the storms. When I saw that the Hotel Monte Carlo was an average Motel at best, I just about lost it. Sunny didn't care she was in the Hotel Car Park dancing and being lit up by lightning like a sporadic strobe light. I don't think I had ever seen Sunny quite so excited as she was those few minutes in the car park outside the Monte Carlo Hotel. We booked in and went for dinner in the restaurant. All the while Sunny glowed, and I glowered. She was ecstatic and I was apoplectic. After dinner, we went to our room. It seemed the cooling evening air had put an end to that day's lightning activity, but a great show was forecast for the next day. The thunderstorm continued in our room. I called her selfish and to piss me off she agreed. I told her I wanted to leave in the morning for Angel Falls she told me if we left there and then we still wouldn't have enough time to get to Angel Falls and get back to Caracas. She never intended that we would go to Angel Falls. She just wanted to come to Lightning Lake. The fight descended to places that I can't or won't remember. I stormed out shouting as I went "we are done, we're just too different". Sunny gave me some advice on sex and travel, "FUCK OFF STORMY". I went to the bar and made friends with half a dozen bottles of an excellent Venezuelan beer called Destillo, I ate a delicious steak burger, made friends with a few more beers and then started on the Tequila. When I got back to the room Sunny was gone. When I went to the car park the car was gone too.
I stayed at the Monte Carlo for 3 days getting increasingly anxious. On the second day, I reported Sunny missing to the local police. It took me nearly 12 hours, but the police still just considered her missing. I travelled back the 700km to Caracas on a torturous 18-hour bus trip that seemed to stop in every town. Two days later I was five hours early for my plane and expecting to see Sunny every single minute right up till the airway was pulled away from the plane and the pilot started to taxi to the runway. I had a slight moment of hope when a four-wheel drive sped out along the runway travelling alongside us but that was just runway workers scaring birds.
Arriving home alone was the strangest of sensations. I was totally at loss and with no answer to the million questions from family and friends. I was feeling like I had been kicked in the guts and punched in the heart all at once. Sunny and I had always been together and her not being there was like losing all your limbs and all your vital organs, a sense of total hopelessness and horrendous emptiness all at once. I just so desperately wanted her to come home. After two more days, this descended into me pleading with every entity known to man to just let me know that she was safe.
Then five days after I arrived home the knock on the door came. As soon as I opened the door, I knew that the news was bad. But I was in such a level of denial. I had traded my soul to every deity and devil known to man. Offered sacrifices and promised character and personal reformation. I would have traded anything for a return to the moment that we had pulled up at the Monte Carlo. Your mind spins and your thoughts scream what-ifs. Then all hope dies.
I don't remember the words. I'm told no one ever does. But they had found Sunny dead by the side of the rental car deep in the National Park on the shore of Lake Maracaibo. There is a steep hill that looks out across the lake and is supposedly struck by lightning more often than any other place on earth, Sunny was found there. The was a fashioned extended TV Aerial lying a short distance from the car that they supposed had been at one time fixed to the roof of the car. The car had been struck by lightning at least once. I asked if this is how Sunny had died. The officer nodded his head no but didn't want to say more. I pushed even though detail isn't really important at times like that. All the evidence showed that Sunny was on the roof of the car holding the TV Aerial and had been struck by lightning. The strike had knocked her off the roof and when she hit the ground the fall had broken her back. She lived on for two days and what eventually killed her was the sun and dehydration. How's that for Irony? God the comedian strikes again. What killed Sunny was the thing she hated the most, the Sun killed Sunny.
Then the policeman handed me an envelope. Inside it was a photocopy of a note from Sunny meant for me. It had been found in a plastic bag tied to a nearby bush.
"Sorry Stormy but you know this is the way I wanted to go. I love you Stormy but we're just too different".