Thursday, September 01, 2005

Back to Gulfport

I'm dicing wilted tree limbs when Glenda arrives. My mother-in-law and her sister joining the fray at Mom's house. I don't recognize the car. I don't recognize her face. Or Aunt Judy's face. We've all aged. The weight of surviving these past four days drags at our bones. Glenda's hugging me and crying and smiling and yelling hello to my parents. She's glad we're all alive and happy that my parents still have a home. And the remains of a roof over their head.

Judy is slowly, unconsciously turning in circles. Trapped in the gravity of disbelief. Trying to fight it. Breathing through her mouth. Her jack slightly dropped. Trying to make sense of this upside-down world. It takes a while to get acclimated to fires of this fresh hell.

They just drove down from Aunt Judy's house. Cindy and the kids are fine. They received my text message this morning while Cindy was in line for gas. It was the only way they knew I was alive, but Glenda had to come down to see her house. She hasn't been there, yet. But she knows. Knows how bad it will be. She thinks she's ready to see it.

I get cleaned up (as best as possible given the conditions) and pack a few extra supplies for Glenda. She thinks she's ready. I can see the hunch in her shoulders, the detachment in her eyes. Probably whispering some mantra to keep herself calm: It's okay. It's okay. It's okay. We all play these games, psyching ourselves out.

But as bad as it is at my parents' house, everything grows slowly worse as we inch into Gulfport.

You simply can not fathom this level of destruction as a whole. You can only digest bits and pieces of it. I'm convinced our minds can not hold the entirety of this new world. Even on my third trip every mile on the road grips me in a spiral of acceptance and denial.

Some of the drive is all to familiar: the warped trees, growing mounds of tattered carpet, a slurry of molding sheetrock and glass, the growing number of soldiers, everyone driving slowly, everyone numbed by Katrina's successful campaign of shock and awe.

But some of the drive is new: missing buildings, tents erected on slabs that used to be homes, and all the sunken faces of people on their front porches as they slowly fan themselves in the numbing August heat.

Oh, God, Glenda whispers. Again. And again. And again.

Following behind us, Judy is doing the same. I see her head twitching side to side.

In near silence, I drive Glenda home.
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