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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."