When I woke up again, I was unsure of how much time has passed. The water in the yard has receded, and I knew it has been much more than just a day. I was curled up on a blanket that was still partly exposed to the elements when the rising sun beckoned me awake. My head pounded, and without opening my eyes I walked to the cooler and pulled out a warm Coca-Cola. I turned it up and began to chug as the caffeine slowly brought life back to me. I looked around to see that it was a fucking mess out here. Empty liquor bottles littered the porch as if we had thrown a raging party. Empty pill bottles scattered about. One of the cats was outside, nibbling at discarded food that was beginning to rot. My cloudy head remained blissful as I looked around.
Snap! My memory snapped back like a rubber band and all the images of the previous days came tumbling back down onto me. I looked around to see if it was a dream. Liam slumped over in a pile breathing deep and even. I went inside, and Linda and Johnny were also crashed out, breathing steady and still alive. Landon was not there. The blood still stained the floor. In the bathroom, I tried to gather my thoughts but my head was spinning from both turmoil and a hang over. I threw up. Pure liquid that smelled like alcohol splashed in the toilet and all over my face. I reached for a towel to wipe it off, but ended up just using the corner of my shirt.
I walked out of the bathroom. I walked through the living room/ bedroom and through the kitchen. Without hesitation, I walked out to the patio and through the gate into the streets of the Treme. The water was noticeably shallower today. I started walking robotically. My head pounded almost as heavy as my heart, and my soul shook its head in disbelief. I walked aimlessly through the neighborhood, noticing that a lot of it was dry. The houses seemed to be sagging with the waterline marks left on their sides. I did not see a single person. I was alone in my silence.
The river streets were now replaced with what looked silt. The mud that covered everything was still fresh and slick. Debris from trees was everywhere. Leaves and branches were piled across the roads, and I gingerly picked my way through the destruction at times. Mechanically, I plodded along, lost in my own thought. I did not even notice when the Hummer rounded the corner until it was on top of me shining bright lights into my eyes.
Men rushed out of the vehicle. I stopped in my tracks. My heart froze up as uniformed men rushed towards me. A part of me thought they had come to take me away. I wandered around with a head full of drugs and madness. I must have looked bewildered in my confusion. In seconds, I was surrounded with imploring faces asking all kinds of questions. The dark greens and browns of camouflage surrounded my vision.
“Ma’am, are you okay? Are you hurt? Where did you come from? Do you need something to eat? Do you need some water?” Someone ran back to the vehicle and brought back a bottle of water. Before I even realized what is going on, these officers tried to load me up in the Hummer. They thought they were going to take me somewhere, and that I would just blindly follow them wherever they lead me. I snapped to, and resisted. I was not going anywhere just yet. I thought they might be taking me to jail. I did not want to go anywhere. I told them I couldn’t go anywhere without my husband.
These military men looked at me with sympathy. I was obviously disheveled and out of my mind. They explained to me that I would have to leave sooner of later, and they told me it would be better to just go ahead and go with them. They offered to go back right now to get my husband. I couldn’t lead these uniformed officers back to the apartment that is littered with drugs and other various incriminating shit. They agreed to let me leave after writing down my address. They promised to have a vehicle there at ten in the morning, and I should be waiting to go with them. I would agree to anything if they would just let me go. I was leery of where these men would take me. I still thought they could take me to jail; after all I was wasted on stolen pharmaceuticals.
It was not until those moments that I had even considered evacuating the city. I still thought that the water would soon be gone, and business would be back to normal any day. I thought that the dope man would be back soon, and I would go back to work on Bourbon Street as soon as the clubs opened back up. This was New Orleans, the number one party city in the world. This was New Orleans, where things are 24/7. This was New Orleans, where the liquor and drugs flow almost as freely as the women. It was not until that very moment that I realized the gravity of the situation. I realized the gravity of my personal situation, and I realized the implications of the Hurricane. I realized for the first time in twelve days that my life was permanently altered. I realized that life, as I knew it would never, ever be the same again. I was forever changed.
I walked slowly back to the apartment, still shaking. I was relieved that I was not going to jail. I watched the Treme pass me by, as I walked home that morning. The stench of death clung to the air all around, and it seemed that for a minute it was all I could smell. I had not showered in the twelve days that I had been sweating and drinking and getting high. My clothes smelled like body odor and death. My hair was scented with open campfire and dead bodies. My mind played that foggy movie over and over again that would later drive me completely off the deep end. It was still the beginning where the credits have just begun, and the conflict of the story has not yet been presented. We do not know who the actors are, and we are not sure of the plot. For now, still images, like horrors taken from a digital camera in my mind, flashed back and forth across my consciousness.
The water line marked many of the houses in the neighborhood. You could see exactly how high that water was by black, splotchy rings that were beginning to mold. You could smell the old and musty scent of New Orleans was amplified by water and heat. Humid decay rose hot like smoke off an afternoon sidewalk in a sudden downpour. The houses were marked with X’s, circles, and numbers in orange spray paint. I am still not sure what all these hieroglyphic markings mean. The street was covered in a black, silty sludge that probably contained oil and blood. I would later look at pictures of these streets and this sludge would be dried and cracked like mud in a desert. Plant matter lay all around, dead, dying, and water logged. Everything was swollen; swollen like dead bodies, like Linda’s junky legs. It all started to spin as the boarded up and broken windows stared down at me telling me it was really true. This has not all been a dream. My foggy memory will hand me pictures I had forgotten about this experience for years to come.