And I don't know which is worse: Being away, not knowing, and coping with all the anxiety that that entails, or being home, seeing the destruction, feeling the loss of my city in the very air I breath, and knowing that the New Orleans that I found, fell in love with, and chose, will never exist again.
It's odd being home. Clifford is intact. Everything is exactly as we left it. Being inside the familiar walls, surrounded by familiar stuff, it's like nothing's happened. The cat is back to her regular routine. But looking at the destroyed garden, or walking out the door onto the street, it's an entirely different story.
Post-apocolyptic. Bombed-out. Debris strewn. And empty. That's the word that best describes New Orleans: it's empty. And it's crying.
At home, we have luxuries. The comfort of Clifford. Dish network. Cable internet. Electricity. The first day back, I spent the afternoon draining, scrubbing, bleaching, rubbing-alcoholing, and refilling the hot tub (which, albeit, has a fence leaning against it now, but it works).
But we don't have gas. Which means no heat, cooking, dryer, or hot water. It will be another month, Entergy says, before we can have the staple of heat.
It's getting colder here.
The only place to get warm here is the hot tub. The luxury has become the necessity.
I went to the Quarter last night to see who's out. Damn, it's good to see home peeps, back in the bars and being themselves. It's a semblance of the life that once lived here.
Everyone tells me you have to be here for at least three days to really get a grasp of how you're going to feel about things.
It's been two. I'm hoping things change in me in the next day, because right now, I'm not very happy.
I don't know that I want to live in this. Or live like this. In this bombed-out, shell-shocked, desolate, sad and broken place.
CNN, along with the rest of the citizens of the world who don't call New Orleans home, have lost interest. It's yesterday's news. Sports things are back on front pages. Bush's new fuck-ups. Business as usual.
There are still a million people displaced from their homes. And those who have come home are picking up the pieces of what remains of their previous lives, and trying to fit those pieces together into some cohesion. For us, the news is still fresh, and will continue to occupy 90% of our waking thoughts (and 100% of our dreaming thoughts).
I talked to mom last night. She hasn't been pummelled with the words "New Orleans" or "9th Ward" or "17th St. Canal" in weeks and so, for the lack of hearing of the horror, she may think things are on the mend.
I told her what I was seeing. She grew quiet. "I just can't imagine."
No, and who could? I needed to come home to see it.
Now, I sorta wish I hadn't.