samedi, septembre 10, 2005

What have you done to my city?

I saw the path of this thing before I flew to Costa Rica a couple of weeks ago. I worried and fretted for a couple of days before becoming uncalm and cranky all day Tuesday. That Tuesday. No one on my rah-rah-yay! trip could understand my problem. The rules of the game were that we couldn't discuss or ask where any of us had gone to school, what we'd studied, the work we did. Or where we were from. I couldn't explain my growing agitation, my panic. I irritated a few. I couldn't be cool to save my life. Finally, late in the evening, at the third hotel of the trip, I got online for the first time since flying out of the States.

And my heart broke. There she was, my ugly, cracked beauty- rundown and languid and still the best party I've ever had- just brutally fucked over and left behind. And my people, you know... those people.

I've lived all over. Here's the list if you like:

Sherbrooke, Quebec
South Carolina
North Carolina
Sandton, Republic of South Africa
New Jersey
Florence, Italy
New Orleans
And now another good ol' U.S. of A. city.

All that to say, I've lived a lot of places and traveled to more and I've never had roots anywhere. Have always envied people who have had 'em. Been slightly in awe of them, if the truth must be told. But in New Orleans, I felt home. The kind of feeling that crawls inside of you and wriggles under your skin whether you like it or not. Now it's a part of you and ever more shall be. No use pretending. No use fighting it.

And, yes, that's not practical. That doesn't make complete sense. I didn't call it my amour fous for nothing. Poverty, racism, ignorance, violence and enough corruption to satisfy everybody related to a politician. And yet... what I found- I won't even put words on what I found other than to say that it felt like home. Right or wrong, it felt like home.

My home in New Orleans is the only one that wanted me to stay as much as I did. The only one that inspired my love and didn't make me feel like a fool for giving all of it. Leaving was difficult. Working past two midnights too many, there was no end to the packing. No end to the best cleaning I've probably ever given a house in my life. Past exhaustion, to the point that I began to hallucinate a little that this place was alive and would not let me go. A doorknob fell off the outside of my bedroom door as I laid down to sleep for two weary hours before the movers were to arrive- as if the house would trap me in that back room if it could.

I left my porch. I left my plant- the one remaining live one. I left my neighbors. My Mardi Gras decorations in the basement for the next lucky resident. Left my best wishes and not a little envy for that individual, if I'm being honest. I left and have been unsettled since.

And so, of course, once people knew where I'd come from lately, they want to know: Why didn't people leave? Why didn't anybody believe the storm forecasts? Why didn't they use the school busses to evacuate people? Why didn't the governor call in the National Guard faster? Or declare a state of emergency sooner? Why did they keep out the Red Cross for so long? Why didn't they fix the levees a long time ago? Why did people start to shoot and rob and rape each other? Why did those police officers quit? Why didn't they have more dignity than that? More honor? Aren't they ashamed of themselves? Why, in New York people were noble during 9/11. Why can't New Orleanians be like New Yorkers? Why did it take so long for rescuers and organizers to take over? Why, in New York during 9/11, things were organized and fast. Why can't New Orleans be like New York? Tisk, tisk, tisk. Well, somebody's got to pay, that's for sure. Probably everybody. Ah, well. Now they can fix the levees but they shouldn't build the damn place again where it was. Don't you think they should rebuild somewhere else? Who would be so stupid as to build below sea level in the first place?

And, yes, I know the answers to all their questions, but I am sick to death of answering questions for people whose heartache is twice removed. For people who are rational and a tad detached. People who welcome one more chance to bash the President. I am sick at heart. Feels like my whole soul is weighed down by grief. And no amount of investigating and finger pointing and responsibility taking- which, of course, must happen and will happen- can move this along.

Since getting home from Costa Rica I've stayed in my apartment. Finding reasons to be busy. Finding reasons to avoid all of my new friends. I am supposed to see them all tomorrow night for dinner, though.

Please, God, no more questions.