I walked aimlessly, watching the scenes of the street with each passing step. Dilapidated house falling down, with broken windows and scattered wood. A white picket fence falling down, and the yard beyond still covered with limbs and dead leaves. Rotten wood spewn into the streets, with splinters dispersed all over. Mud caked onto the streets still, dark Louisiana soils covered in oil. Glass and toilets and dressers and things that people once loved lined the yards around. Refrigerators, taped shut shouting an ominous warning to the poisonous contents.
The sky grew darker, and the tree branches above looked black against the falling sun. Tears welled up in my eyes. I walked past a house I had always loved, and the levee inside me burst once more. Flooding me with tears.
The little house was always so cute. It was a tiny single shotgun, with a little white porch. Before the storm, there were always plants hanging and the porch chairs looked well used. A small square stained glass window was right below the eaves of the porch. The little house had collapsed in on herself, bucking from the water rotting the old wood for all the days it stood here. Wood splintered out, splattering the debris from the house into the street and the surrounding yards. The roof of the little front porch sat on the street, and the shattered colored glass sparkled in the setting sun. Glints and glimmers of the sun sent flashing blues and reds.
I reached out my hand, shaking from the tears that wracked my body. The tips of my fingers touched the roof of that little house. The shingles were rough and falling off. I looked around, and I realized I was surrounded by destruction, both inside and out. Tears falling hysterically, I sat down on the side of the street.
I buried my face into my hands, sobbing uncontrollably. I thought about the ruins of my beloved city. I thought about Sophia, who was still missing. I thought about Liam hundreds of miles away, mourning the loss of his father. I thought about all the people I still had not heard from since the storm. I thought about all the store windows still boarded up. I thought about the Red Cross truck, scouring the Bywater every day ringing its alarm to bring food to the troubled. I thought about my neighborhood that looked like a war zone. I thought about those lost; I thought about Jack, and now, I thought about Phoenix.
And I thought about me. I thought about how it could have been me. I thought about how cold and unfeeling I had been to all this tragedy, as the mask of dope covered what was deep inside. I thought about my life passing me by, as I sat dirty and crying on the side of the street. And then, the levee exploded.
Much like that levee in the 9 th ward, my mind came crashing down with a tsunami of emotion and heartache, drowning me in all its madness. I looked up towards the sky, and I screamed. I screamed and I screamed and I screamed.
Tears blinding me, I searched hysterically for my kit. I screamed as I took out the needle. I held it up high, with two hands like a killer as he stabs his prey. I smashed the needle onto the ground, bending it and scraping it on the street. It screeched across the pavement, and I let it drop.
I stood up, stomping on the needle as I screamed. I smashed the plastic to bits, grinding it into the concrete. Tiny clear bits of plastic ground in with the debris. My life ground in with the debris. My whole body shook with tears and hysteria.
I opened up the foils, dumping their contents into the mud. I smashed the dope down into the mud, rubbing it in as my foot frantically scoured the ground back and forth. My shoes covered in the wet, black Louisiana dirt. When all the dope was gone, smashed unrecoverable into the mud, I tossed the foils into the air.
The setting sun caught the glimmer of the aluminum. The wind from the river picked one up, swooping it onto the debris of the little house. It glimmered in the sun, shining like a flag. Through my tears, I saw the little foil…empty and waving in the sun. I turned away, and walked back to Quentin’s sobbing uncontrollably. My shoulders racked with the power of the tears, and I gasped for my breath between wailing sobs.
No one was home when I got back, and I sat alone with my hysteria. Tears, wracking tears until the storm subsided. I was left with the empty hiccup that follows a crying spell. I had to get out of this place. I had to get the fuck out of here. I checked my cash stash, and then I called the airport.
Red faced and swollen from tears, I walked to the corner store and purchased a prepaid credit card to secure my ticket. I reserved a ticket to North Carolina and walked home savoring a menthol cigarette. I bought a bottle of Jameson, and went back to wait for Quentin. I sat wrapped in a blanket, pulling on the warming whiskey as I waited. I stared blankly at this place around me, the lights from the television in the next room flickered on my face. All emotion temporarily drained out, and replaced by nothingness. I was broken.
Tears flowed once more when Quentin got back. He held me as I cried. And cried. And cried. He held me for the next few days while the dope left my system. He held me in the house each and every time I wanted to run out and call the dope man. He held my hair while I puked, and he held my cold wet hair when I finally slept. Quentin and his girlfriend held the broken pieces of my soul over the next few days to make sure that all those pieces somehow got on that plane to North Carolina.
I was still exhausted from the kick when I packed my suitcase for the airport. The sun streaked pink through the Bywater that morning. I noticed the beauty of the city. My heart felt sad, as I realized it was the end of an era. My heart felt heavy, as I knew I would not see this beloved place for quite some time. My heart felt heavy, as I stepped into the unknown.
Quentin drove me to the airport. I watched the city flash by me. The destruction in the Bywater, fading into the bustle of the Quarter. The beauty of the mansions on Esplanade, and the dilapidation of the Treme as we headed onto the I-10. Looking down from the I-10 overpass near Tulane, I noticed a house gaping open to the heavens with vines running down the sides. The old tuberculosis hospital looked sad and abandoned as it bid me farewell. The round Superdome, with pieces of the roof still peeling, while hotels and buildings of the CBD stood rotting behind their blown out windows.
The billboards were worn and peeling from the elements, and the Tulane wall looked chipping with its painted logo. The graveyards lining the I-10 only reminded me that the city has always been surrounded by death. I think of all the dead and dying that I know. The city faded past me, and I noticed we were on the stretch of the exit that leads to the airport. My heart was heavy with sadness. My muscles were weak from the kick. And my soul was utterly exhausted from the journey. I sunk down in the chair, as the car went up the ramp to the terminal.
I clung to Quentin for a minute, while tears streamed down my eyes. He hugged me with a tight and comforting bear hug, and we bid farewell. I wiped my tears, and walked confidently into the airport. I picked up my ticket, and sank into the hard chair to wait for my plane.
The sky was blue with big fluffy clouds, as I stepped out onto the concrete runway. The weather reminded me of everything I loved about New Orleans, and my heart grew heavy with both tears and regret. A small metal set of stairs lead up to the plane. I clung tightly to my carry on as I walked to the plane. I looked down, and tried to fight the emotion welling up inside me. I watched my feet in their tattered shoes as they took each ascending step carefully. Holding onto the metal railing, I climbed slowly and carefully. I took a deep breath, breathing in all those smells of my beloved Louisiana, and I boarded the plane.
I never looked back.