We were sitting on my fire escape this afternoon watching the storm, the thunder and lightning punctuating our conversation.
We'd had a very mellow day. Given the day before, with all of its near disasters, we took it easy. Massages, breakfast, a lot of sitting in one place away from knives and breakables...
As I listened to the rumbling of the thunder I was reminded of my time in Colombia, when lightning struck our house.
It was during the winter, which isn't all that different from other seasons in the tropics, except for it rains just a bit more. This particular storm was bad even by local standards. The skies opened and let loose with a vengeance. We stood outside for a while, family and household staff, watching the display. We scurried back inside after one of the red clay roof tiles was forcefully hurled to the spot where our maid had stood just a moment before.
I remember clearly. I was walking into the bathroom. I had just turned on the light and suddenly I heard a loud booming thunder that enveloped me in an almost tangible way. A heavy pressure descended over the entire house. I felt it like a physical weight upon me. I opened the door and smelled burning. Ozone and plastic and wood, burning...
I heard my father's voice from somewhere in the house, over the din of the storm, asking if everyone was alright. We all smelled something burning.
After making sure everyone, family and maids, were safe, we followed him on a tour of the house, and still the smell of something burning led us from room to room.
The younger maid had been outside with my little brother when the lightning bolt struck. They were on their way inside to watch a television show. They had watched lightning strike and sparks dancing all the way down some electrical wires.
We crept through the house following that smell of fire, of smoke. It grew stronger in the t.v. room. By the dim light of our candles and flashlights we could see that the television screen did not look normal. My father picked it up and it rattled like a piggy bank. There was a large charred mark on the table where it had sat.
The mystery discovered, we settled in for sleep. The following morning brought news of flooding in the nearby village and damage to several homes in our compound. Ours was the only home actually struck by lightning. We discovered a hole about a foot and a half deep next to the t.v. antenna, where the lightning had finally grounded and scattered red earth in every direction. We were just glad my brother and the maid weren't actually watching the t.v. at the time.
After that storm, the company set up a lightning rod near the house in hopes of preventing such incidents. It didn't seem to help, as our house was struck again while we lived there. We found out it had actually been struck several times before we moved in as well. So much for that old adage.