Sunday, April 30th, 2006
I haven’t cried yet. What does that mean? Does that mean I’m a cold-hearted bitch? Does it mean I’m numb? Why didn’t I cry there? Why didn’t I cry on the trip back? Why not in my bed at night? In my dreams?
These tears I have to cry, they’re there, they crashing inside. Flooding my heart, but these tears, they’re too damn big to cry.
One week. One week? No, five days. What are five days? Those five days, just one of them was bigger than what my life is, or will ever be. How am I back here now, how do I just step out of a van and back to my life?
I know that no matter how many days I spend with a wonderbar and a hammer I can never do it all. But yet, what is this? What am I doing here? What are papers with letters, symbols, and grades, passing, or failing, doing for me now, for anyone now? How can I drop my hand in helping to hold up the fragile pieces of someone’s life to come to this? To college , where I can bitch about wanting my meat cooked [well-done], where I can procrastinate on a laptop, and take a bus to see a famous writer speak. I can walk in a protest, I can wear my activist gear and colors, but who cares, who hears?
Who wants to hear my story, my fragmented story of a million stories? Is that all I am to be? The messenger, the storyteller of the lives lost? Only to tell my stories to deaf ears.
Who can understand me, when I am yet to understand them? Who will listen, but my guilty heart, that tells me that knee deep in black sludge is where I belong?
In five days I saw the history of a hundred-plus years before, and to come, play before me. Now I come back and read about it in books written by “authorities,” that place everything in historical context. What about Mike and Ann? What about the anonymous faces that we pass with the sullen, haunted eyes that have seen a hundred years of this. [I am a tourist.] What about the infinite unseen, forgotten, unfound, and unrecognizable? Who will pick up their pieces; rebuild their homes (their graves), if I do not? What is my life worth here, when I am unable to resurrect and reclaim the worth of lives there?
I miss New Orleans. Is that paradoxical? To miss ground zero? A war zone? A ghost town? The Hiroshima of my day? How do I miss a place that is missing; A place that I have never seen? To which I have no heritage, no ties. But, I miss it. I miss it like I miss the taste of air when underwater. How ironic! I feel like I’m drowning in need to return, to reclaim, to excavate my Atlantis.
But I miss this, and how much more that has been lost, that I will never know? That money and tools, wood, and steel will never replace. Raise new levees, build new stores, and build your goddamn lush green gulf courses. But know you have made a hole-in-one into the depths of unseen catacombs.
Red and black it dangled in the tree, immobilized for six months. This life preserver, 20 feet in the air– who did it save? And deep inside the lower 9th ward who cares? I do not know you, but I feel you there, my link that will never be broken. I do not know your pain, your fear, your story. But that does not devalue it, nor you, my dear brother or sister.
Is it possible to form a bond with the dead? That, I am sure will never break. Perhaps I have not cried because that is not my place, these are not my tears to shed. What are tears to you? Have not the waters of the Gulf been enough?
I have a purpose. You have shown me this. But it is not here, not now. I’m coming back to you New Orleans. My precious city. I will find your children, commemorate their lives, and make their burden my own. But the floods will come again. What shall be done? Is it all in vain? No. To forget and abandon is to give up on what was, what is, and what could be. Perhaps it will not always be New Orleans but, another time, another place.
But these “un-cry-able” tears will never go away, and for this I am humbled, and made human. Is this a selfish act? Maybe.