Monday, October 24, 2005

unspoken goodbye/evacuation

This here, and the next few blogs, will be about what I've been doing these past eight weeks instead of teaching at Frederick Douglass High School.
I have to start, though, with the Wednesday before the storm. That was my last day at Douglass. This is what I wrote with my second period class:
Wednesday, 24 August 2005. Just read Stafford's poem with them, the line, "Fear will not go away: it will take you into yourself and bless you and keep you." Fear. That's our subject. I step into things I'm afraid of all the time. But it makes me wonder if I'm stepping into the easy scary things or the things that I'm really afraid of. Like committment to another. I'm really afraid of that. I think every time I've stepped into it I've found it wanting, but maybe...agh.
I need to plan my class better. I need to write. I feel all scattered. Figure out class for tomorrow. I'll read chapter three from the Douglass narrative to them. And we will write. And talk.
I'm outa here.
I'd just found out a few days before that my brother-in-law had died and the funeral was going to be on Friday, out of town. On Wednesday after class I decided to go to the funeral a day early so I was absent from school Thursday and Friday. Katrina wasn't even an issue at that point so I didn't say goodbye or good luck or anything to anybody at school. And the storm hit Monday. And the 9th ward flooded and all my students evacuated, a lot of them through the Superdome.
So Wednesday was my last day at Douglass. And I don't know whether I went out with a bang or a whimper. You never know when you'll walk out a door for the last time, corny as that sounds.

On the Saturday after the funeral and before the storm, a good friend of mine and I had a parting of the ways, which was sad. That night I met two friends at a bar on Frenchmen Street and we had crazy conversation about dying in the hurricane and this could be the last time we see each other and such. The atmosphere was foreboding. Then I went to another place I frequent and danced and at midnight we all said see ya tomorrow, with hope and doubt. But I was still planning on staying at that point. A lot of people were. But at 7 Sunday morning Tim called to see what I was going to do. I told him I was staying, which is what he'd expected to hear. And he said what the heck mom, you could just go somewhere for a few days. It'll be an adventure no matter where you are. And I said I'd think on it. Then Leslie called from the road, on her way to Tampa, to see what I was intending. I think she was trying to plant the seed to get me to leave. Then I heard on the television that the mayor had called for a mandatory evacuation and it got me scared. The thing that decided me though was the fact that Tim was worried. So I called my friend David and accepted his gracious offer of refuge, and I called two older men in my neighborhood who didn't have anywhere to go and said let's go to Hammond. I packed a few things, for a few days -- about five items of clothing, the gin, the brandy, a box of wine, a pillow, all the non-perishable food I had, cat food, litter pan -- and we put all our stuff in the back of my little pickup truck, and I put my feral cat, Orange, in a plastic cat carrier (and he was hysterical and clawing and I told both of the old men with me that if I couldn't get the cats out I wasn't leaving) but he calmed down, and I put my other cat, Princess, in a pillow case, and LEJ and I and the two cats packed ourselves into the cab of the truck, George and his dog Panda in his car behind us, and we headed east to go west to Hammond. LEJ sat with Orange in the cat carrier on his lap and Princess in the bag, howling, between us, and George in my side view mirror. Princess ripped her way out of the pillow case about twenty minutes after we started and so was loose in the truck, panting and howling, trying to get under my feet, for the eight hours it took us to get to Hammond, five of which were in rain and one in a blinding storm that fogged my glass beyond the capability of my defroster to correct, so I had to drive and wipe the windshield constantly with the only dry thing in the truck, toilet paper. Poor Orange was terrified and overheated and curled up in the corner of the plastic box for eight hours. My air conditioner wasn't working so the windows were halfway down and it was hot and noisy and I kept cupping water in my hand and opening the cat carrier to try to give it to him (while I was also driving) but he wouldn't have any of it.
I don't remember the rest of the night except that we got to Dave's about 7 PM in a moderate condition of shock. The clothes I tried to put on (the ones I was wearing were soaked) were also wet from being in the back of the truck.
Eventually, George went to Boca Raton and LEJ went to Lafayette. Princess and Orange and I stayed with David for six weeks.


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Anonymous Cassandra said...

At least your cats didn't jump out the window! I wonder how your cats would tell their stories?

I look forward to reading more...

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, comment spam sucks.

Second, I'm glad you're blogging again. I don't even know you, but I've been worried because you haven't written for so long.


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