Wednesday, September 21, 2005

disconnect and the inability to reconcile memory with reality

My neighbor says that everything is black and white thanks to the mud and the rain. You forget that the world is actually in color because everything is washed in gray. It's only when you look up to see the leaves on the trees that you see any kind of actual color.

Muted. It's like the world is muted in a mudslide. I guess that is what happens when Lake Pontchartrain bathes your home with its dredges.

The windows didn't break, evidently. It makes me wonder what the inside of the house is like and how the water and muck came in if the roof didn't break and the windows are intact.

I mean, I'm not kidding myself. I know it's all trashed.

But there is an incredible disconnect between factually knowing something and emotionally knowing something. I think about the human inability to accept the deaths of those we love due to the reality of our own existence. As if to say that people are alive because we are alive. When someone is so much a part of your life, it seems unlikely that they could be gone when you are still breathing and functioning.

That is how this feels. I find it hard to emotionally register the loss of New Orleans because I am still alive. New Orleans is in me. I think every New Orleanian would say that. New Orleans exists when you talk about your mom, when you talk about a good meal, when you sit around drinking with friends, when you stroll instead of rush, when you make time for coffee and the horoscope, when you run into nursery school friends on the street.

I went to a party in Tribeca tonight for work and the entire place was decorated with gardenias. I had to be uncouth and bend over to inhale their heady perfume. Gardenias remind me of one of my neighbors. She passed away in July 2004, but throughout my youth, she would call my mom at ten o'clock at night so that my brother, mom and I could see her night blooming cereuses. I remember running through the yards underneath the Oak trees, not caring whether or not my Chinese pajamas got muddy from the grass. We stopped short when we got to her house and crept towards the back yard as if we were visiting a wild baby animal. We stooped over the exotic blooms, closed our eyes and breathed in. Nights like that, the sky hung like bolts of black velvet, free to hang like drapery in the sky.

It's hard to believe this space of such sensory delight and exhibition has been reduced to the raw stench of sewage, toxic sludge and lake water. The mud hasn't even caked over yet and the next hurricane is on its way.

How can I reconcile these realities?


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