Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The eye

I’m about to crash. Mentally and physically. Everyone is alive. But the Gulf Coast is shattered. So much to absorb that it is overwhelming if you try to grasp it all at once. We have no source for clean water. No source for food. No power. No lines of communications. And there are dire predictions of cholera epidemic. But everyone is alive. Everyone: Jason, Mel, my parents, my grand parents, my wife, and my children. Everything else can be fixed or replaced, eventually. At least that is what I keep telling myself.

Before dinner, I get The Grand Tour. My father’s roof is nearly-shingleless and scraped to its wooden bones in most places. The metal, "wind-resistant" carport crumpled. From twelve feet tall down to four. And instead of protecting the cars, it has become something of a rain shelter when we sit outside. Dad's ceilings are tattooed brown from exposure to leaks. One of the large stains in the living room looks like a relief of Christ stretched resplendent on the cross. (Maybe I can sell it on eBay?) Several windows on their enclosed porch imploded. And only scraps of his gutters remain. Like dangling scabs.

Outside, three trees from opposing yards have fallen across Dad’s property. Two of them fell together and combined to flatten the three thousand dollar green house that my mother received for Christmas last year. Within sight, I’d say that three out of every four trees have collapsed. Seventy five percent loss.

I try to butcher a few of the smaller limbs with my cordless saw. But I don’t have the energy. It’s all fading. Fast. With Judy’s clean up and the trip and the discovery of Glenda’s house and my would-be new house all under my wing, I just can’t do today.

The crash threatens. My left wrist is throbbing. I smell steaks on the grill. My mother asks if I want more tea. I can smell the sweat which has soaked my clothes all day. I'm getting blind spots in my vision. I need to sit down. And a flashback rifles through my head: Cindy and the kids and Glenda huddled in the unlit bathroom of Judy’s house. Every pillow known to man is on top of them. The kids in the bathtub, under layers and layers of blankets, asking what is going on. And Cindy yelling for me to join them. There’s a tornado outside. And I was too numb to realize what she was saying. And I couldn’t stop pacing. Close the door, Jon! Cindy and Glenda trying to calm the children while I’m walking in and out of the bathroom in a daze. The wind drowned out their screams. And I just stood there.

Then my mother hugs me. Breaks the spell. I’m glad you’re here, she says. We don’t talk about the phone call. I don’t tell her about my lone prayer. Or my tears.

Everyone is alive.

And the Gulf Coast is shattered.

I’m in the eye of a new storm.

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