Talk of the storm rose up in my world the day before Katrina made landfall in New Orleans. The rest of the country watched this massive hurricane as it approached the eastern seaboard and made a pit stop in Florida before she ripped through the Gulf of Mexico headed straight for Louisiana. In a world of strip clubs and heroin, no one really kept up with what was going on in the news or even the real world that surrounded us.
I heard about the hurricane on Saturday morning. My dope dealer came by that morning taking less than thirty minutes, a record time for the man who often showed up three hours late. As Bob sat hunched over in the driver’s seat of his Land Rover, counting through the thousand tiny folded squares of tin foil, he peered through his glasses, squinting at me. From here, you could not see his leg that was fake from the knee down. The rumor was that it happened when he was in prison. The kind older man that peered down at me over his glasses, smiling a Cheshire grin, asking me if I wanted to get a few extra bags to hold me over for the next few days. When I looked at him apparently confused, he explained that he was evacuating for the hurricane that headed for New Orleans.
“There is a hurricane coming? Well, I don’t have much extra money, so do you think you could front me a few?” I asked.
“Only a couple extra, and I will be back in two or three days, and you know you will be needing more of this shit so…just have my money then,” he chuckled like the kind old man he was.
I gave him five crumpled up twenties and held out my greedy hand. He reached out his dark, ashy hand, turning it over and slowly uncapping his fingers to reveal ten foil squares before he dropped them to me. I looked at the shiny little foils in my palm, wrapped and folded in perfect little squares with the outsides folding in on themselves. I was more concerned about what was inside these little pieces of aluminum foil than I was of any impending hurricane. Liam and I had stayed in the city for so many other hurricanes and half of the time it barely even rained. In the last ten years, there had never even been a hurricane strong enough to even lose power in the entire city. Nothing ever closed down in New Orleans during a hurricane. New Orleans is known for the best hurricane parties in the world, and its most famous cocktail happens to be called The Hurricane. I hardly thought about any hurricane while I cooked up my morning shot.
After my morning shot that Saturday, I walked around the Treme. The sun was bright, but the clouds hustled in. The air felt ominous and eerie, while the brightness contrasted with the grayness in a way that made my heart feel a little excited, or maybe nervous. My friends would still be asleep for another hour before they woke up full of need and nausea. I always enjoyed a small amount of time to myself, which was a rare thing when sharing a tiny apartment with other often-desperate junkies. The streets were clamoring with activity, and it seemed everyone was bustling around headed somewhere.
I wandered through the Treme, talking to people that I knew. People were boarding up windows. People were packing their cars. Some people were shopping, carrying their groceries home from the corner store or the A&P in plastic bags. Some people were just drinking, as usual. A lot of people I knew were not planning on leaving the Treme, and instead they just stocked up on supplies. I thought I had just stocked up on most of the supplies I would need. After all, I thought I only needed a pocket full of dope to survive.
When I got back to the apartment, I woke the boys up. A junky never minds being stirred awake if you have a bag of dope in your hand. I waited patiently while Liam and Jim took their morning shot, but I didn’t dare wake Jim’s mother because we all knew she was meaner than a mountain lion if we did. The boys would not hear a word I said if their heads were still full of grogginess and their bodies straining from lack of dope, so I waited for the hardened junkies to pierce a corroded vein.
“Did you guys know there is a storm coming? A lot of people are evacuating,” I told them. We did not have control of the television, and I cannot remember the last time Jim’s mother watched the news anyway. I was met with two blank faces just looking at me because they had no idea what I was talking about.
Between Liam and me, there was no discussion about evacuating. We did discuss how much dope we had and that it was barely enough to hold us off until the following morning. Liam, fresh out of detox, had already succumbed to the heroin beast, and his need was slightly more than recreational. My need, on the other hand, was monumental, moving mountains and making the world go wrought with madness as the Sickness set in.
The mission for the rest of the day was to make money and procure as much dope as possible before this hurricane struck. During previous storms we faced withdrawal for a day or two because most of the dealers left town. The junkies always stayed put because we had no where to go that we could cop dope, and most of us did not have enough money to get very far from the city. We knew we could not evacuate to some strange place where we had no chance of copping any dope, so leaving the city was never even discussed. We had never left before.