Friday, May 7, 2010

Description of the Storm

Darkness surrounds, sitting over the city tight like a glove. Cramping down on every heart and every mind as our eyes are filled with terror- and the city is filling with water.
The clouds have subsided, and the dreaded winds, lightening and rains have moved past the Gulf Coast. The sun comes up, bright and clear…it is always calmest after the storm. The light reflects and refracts as the rushing water keeps rising, and rising. Although the sun is bright, darkness settles down on every heart. Fear is also mounting in our hearts, exploding in our brains and ejecting from our mouths. It seems as if everyone is screaming.
Panic rises like the flood waters, slowly at first then quickly escalating to the tantamount of chaos. Breaking glass and people rushing into abandoned buildings like pirates raping and robbing for their booty. We are all reduced to the primal instincts that are ruled by only survival.
Questions begin rising as quickly as the water. What will we do? Will we survive this devastation and its impending aftermath? Food, liquor, and drug supplies will soon run dry. Piracy becomes the only option.
We are rushing into darkened supermarkets and pharmacies, just like everyone else in the city. Floating a trash can through the water and muck; a vessel to keep our pilfered booty dry. Food and liquor have both become necessities at this point; one to nourish our bodies and the other to make it possible to deal with the issues clouding our minds. Windows breaking and shattered glass is everywhere. People are climbing through broken windows and emerging with whatever they can carry.
This valiant city is reduced to a war zone. And everyone is struck by the diseases of pure madness and complete insanity. The mental switch from rational thinking to sheer panic mode runs amok, and the primal instinct to simply survive stirs us all into madness.
Canal Street is soon littered with broken glass and mismatched tennis shoes while all the Foot Lockers stand in complete ruin. Pirate booty is left abandoned all over the streets. Wandering in and out of these busted doors and windows, I see that most of these stores are left in an empty destruction. Everything is gone. All the drugs have been ripped from the shelves of the pharmacies. All the liquor and cigarettes have been lifted from the convenient stores, leaving behind everything that is soggy and wet.
Looking around, it seems that everything is soggy and wet. We are all wading around in the waist deep, murky water. Tired of being cooped up while the storm outside was raging…we venture out to explore the city despite the miles of dirty, daunting water. It takes an hour to push our way through the waist deep water to the Quarter from the Treme, where it only took twenty minutes just a few days earlier. As we wander, we keep getting lost because the flood waters have also taken our sense of direction. We wade through rows of houses, watching the street signs because these are the only two indications of where the streets once were.
The French Quarter is mostly dry, but it is scarier than anywhere else. A spooky silence has settled down in the air, and the streets are completely deserted…the normal bustle of Bourbon Street has been silenced for the first time in many, many years. The only noise in the entire Quarter comes from Johnny Whites on the corner of Bourbon and St. Peter. The bar has been open throughout the storm, and people have begun to meet and gather here…trading information and stories. A lone pay phone across the street rings out. Apparently the only working phone in the city is a random pay phone across the street from the only establishment that seems to be open in the French Quarter.
The sun begins to set on this first day of chaotic madness. The Quarter not only lies silent, but now it is dark. The neon lights of Bourbon Street have gone out with the power, and the street lights no longer illuminate the city. This deadly dark and eerie quiet settles deep into my heart, leaving it cold and shivering. For the first time since the storm began, I am truly terrified.
As the sun completely disappears, the water that is all around grows darker and more ominous. It reminds me more of an oil slick than water; it is so fucking black. The moon, thank God, is nearly full. Its light reflecting and refracting on the water as the breeze causes the ripples for the moon to illuminate.
For the first time ever, the stars appear in the sky above New Orleans. A whole slew of them, and I am struck with their overwhelming beauty. I have not seen the stars in all the years I lived in New Orleans. Something about the stars reminds of me of my faraway home near the mountains, and calm overtakes my heart. My heartbeat returns to normal for the first time all day, and then its pace slows further. Serene, calm, and peaceful as I take in the stars in the perfect silence.


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