Katrina

1.

Five weeks since I had last seen

or heard from her. I had lost contact

with the whole world in those five weeks.

But the entire world thought

they knew what was happening to me.

We were all crouched in that sticky

gymnasium, waiting to be told

what to do, where to go. I scanned

the crowd for her face, my best friend.

I couldn't attain even a trace of her.

2.

Three days since I had kissed

my mother goodbye as I

went to spend the weekend

with my father, his wife,

and my loving grandparents

who were taking a river cruise

up the Mighty Mississippi,

and now we were in the car,

bound for my father's condo

in Florida to "get out of dodge"

as the radio said. As we drove

we noticed that we the only people

headed East, everyone else headed

West to Texas or North to Arkansas.

3.

Three months after school started

back up again after our five week

break, that's when I finally saw her.

I had worried so much, where was she,

was she alive, was she dead, was she

ever coming back? She later told me

that she had stayed with her family

in the central part of the state,

in Alexandria, at a jail

because her father was a cop

and the other cops were looking out

for them. She showed me a picture

her thirteenth birthday, which she

had spent at the grimly gaol.

4.

After spending two weeks

at the condo on the beach listening

to gruesome reports of what was going on

back at home, I flew up to where my mother

was staying and we started the grueling drive

back home. I carried with me, new clothes

some of my father's wife's friends had given

to me so that I would have clothes for those two

weekes since, I had only packed for the weekend.

I also carried a scrapbook which included news

clippings and pictures, so as my father's wife

said, I would "be able to remember what happened

for the rest of my life." But I don't think that this

experience is something I can ever forget.

5.

We got home to find the house reeking

with mold and mildew; the floorboards

were buckled underneath my feet

making me feel like I was walking

on stiffened brown waves, like those

that had caused the damage to our house.

I went into my room to find a molded

dollar bill still laying on my carpet.

I can't remember if I ever cried.

I don't think I did. Not once.

6.

The military and FEMA

set up food and water distribution

points all around the city. They gave

us bottled water and MREs for two

months until the grocery stores

had fresh foods again. I still look

at MREs and nearly puke.

7.

I could never go into the FEMA

trailer my brother received, my eyes

would burn with the forbidden chemicals.

The whole trailer was smaller than my bedroom

at home, so I felt pressed in and claustriphobic

whenever I had to sleep in my father's FEMA

trailer. I hear, so many people were sick

from those trailers. So not only did we hate

the Army Corps of Engineers for fucking

up the levees, but now we hated FEMA

and the Road Home program.

8.

In my seventh grade English classroom,

we had just hung up projects before

our unexpected five week break.

When we got back, all the windows

had been blown out of the room.

My project was the only one

that was left hanging from the ceiling.

I can see it now, my lone mobile swinging

violently as the others crashed

to the floor. I still have that mobile

today, with all of its rain spots smearing

the words and pictures I had printed

out and glued to bits of colorful

construction paper and tied together.

9.

For my birthday, four months

after that fateful day. My mother

gave me a cell phone. I was thirteen.

Most people thought this was too young.

But my phone was the security blanket

my mother and I shared. It was also

my lifeline to my best friend, so

that I would never lose touch

either of them again.

10.

It has now been almost seven years

and whenever I introduce myself

and where I am from, people always

inevitable ask me "Were you affected?"

Sometimes I want to respond,

"Of course I fucking was, you God

damned idiot; it was a category five

fucking hurricane. Now lets get over it

and move on with everybody's fucking lives."

But I just smile, nod, and say "Yes,

but not as bad as some people were."