I woke up kicking and sweating in a cold room, sleep utterly elusive. The dull, throbbing nausea that has been with me since the day before Katrina and that has not abated for a moment is crystalizing into prickles of panic and grief. My addled, overwhelmed mind is beginning to appreciate this nightmare and its repercussions on my life, the lives of my friends, and the fate of a city that I love and which will probably never exist the way I know it again. The result is an acute sorrow, as if I had lost 50 loved ones in one day, and fire ants are eating my brain.
I never thought I would have this conversation with my boyfriend in quite this context: "Hi honey. So. Where would you like to live?"
To those reading who do not live in New Orleans, I pose the situation to you: What would you do if, while away on holiday for a week, the city you lived in simply ceased to exist?
I remember leaving Clifford at 7am last Thursday, giving a sleeping Ben a kiss goodbye, seeing his half-conscious smile and mumbled, "I love you, baby," and, for reasons I didn't understand then, nor understand now, crying on the way to the airport. As if I knew I would not be back, nor see Ben, seven days later.
Tonight, I was supposed to return to my big, beautiful Clifford and my happy, horny boyfriend.
Growing up and spending two weeks a year at this lakehouse in upstate New York, I remember feeling on our last day here that I would willingly sell my soul if only I could stay longer. Looks like I got my wish at last.
I don't know what we're going to do. For the short term, I'll stay at the lakehouse, and caravan down to Washington next week with Aunt Kim and Uncle John and stay with them in Virginia. My mom and Aunt Sally, by mere chance, will be flying from California to Virginia next week, so I'll stay there a few days and visit with them. Ben, in the meantime, will leave Dallas, see friends in Nashville and family in Kentucky.
After that? Drop a penny on a map and meet up with Ben where it falls, I guess.
Seriously, in the midst of this agony and loss and feeling lost, the thing that holds me together are the people I know. Friends, family, kindness of strangers I am the happy recipient of so many offers of crashpads in every corner of the country. And this is nothing to take for granted.
I watch and hear the news of the impoverished, ignorant people of New Orleans shooting, raping, murdering, looting, acting with no more sense than rats on a sinking ship, and I am heartsick for humanity. If you can even call it humanity, at this point. It seems purely animal to me.
And then, on the flip side, there are all of you who've offered your aid and your homes to me and Ben. You know who you are. It is your existence in this world that keeps me from turning into a homicidal misanthrope. Any sweetness in the black, sebaceous bile that is currently pumping through my heart is there due to you. Please know that I love you tremendously for your efforts, and, as we'll probably be spending the next few months vagabonding around the country, we may just show up on your doorstep! So I hope you meant it when you said, "Come stay!" :-)
The other item that saves my soul from hating humanity (and I'm at odds to discern who I hate more now peasant looters and murderers, or G.W.), are my friends from New Orleans, now scattered all over the country like a not very festive exploding confetti popper.
All NOLA refugees, and those still stuck in that hell-pit, I adore you so much. You are the city to me, and without you there, it will never be home again. I want to hold you all and never let go.
This is all finally starting to set in. I'm finally starting to crumble. Maybe that's a good thing. And maybe it's not.
I woke up, at 3:30am, panicked for my cats. Yesterday I wrote to ears.org and noahswish.org to beg them to rescue my kitties. They both responded that I'd be put on their list. At 3:30am, I felt I had to email them immediately that there are keys to my house at the airport valet.
3:30am. This could not wait! I wrote to them with the hook number, and more details about the house, the cats, where to find a cat carrier in the house. And for all I know some fucking peasant has broken into Clifford, killed and eaten my cats and bathed in their blood.
Wouldn't put it past these animals.
Because of them, I'm extremely worried about my friends left unaccounted for. Liz, where are you? Michele. Rory. Please, please be okay, and please make contact the moment you can.
My heart is not accustomed to juggling such heavy loads of love, hate, anxiety, remorse and gratitude.