Tuesday, November 29, 2005

November 22, 2005

Today the Red Cross mobile that passes daily began getting clever, which was a welcome respite, really from the cop-like horn and the grim announcements of “Red Cross has hot meals and water.” Today the honker rhythmically tapped the cop-horn and the announcer yelled “Yoo-hoo, Come and get it!” Still, I can’t help wondering if they don’t feel a bit silly riding around this repaired neighborhood—this mostly-unscathed neighborhood—this neighborhood where we are home and where Simon makes me meals like broiled salmon or roasted chicken and we drink Abita Restoration Ale to wash it all down. It seems off to me that the Red Cross was absent in the immediate aftermath, when people so desperately needed food and water, and that they then began closing shelters and centers in Atlanta and other areas where Nola evacuees are, and then here they are, in New Orleans, finally, where the population is mostly NOT one that needs formed, warm chicken part-patties and canned peas. Where there are over 50 restaurants open and jobs and where those who are homeless are mostly workers who camp in the park and get overpaid by FEMA for jobs or displaced residents should have. I heard on the local news today that of the 460,000 New Orleans residents who lived here before the storm, just 60-70,000 have returned.

I see other returnees in the Sound CafĂ©, where I went for coffee and to grade student essays this morning. T.R., my boss form Tulane, was there, and he asked how we were doing. It’s a hard question to answer. Last night I was so tense—and I am now, too—that I felt like someone was standing on my head. I feel like my jaw is constantly clenched. Still, I told T.R. that we were fine, all things considered; that Simon is not working; that he can’t work because he is “out of status”, until we get married. (I guess given that fact it’s no wonder that I am stressed. Not only do I have my own uncertain future to deal with, I also have to marry Simon before he can make the next step in his life.) And of course I want to marry Simon, but to marry him so he can get a job? I never wanted marriage to be a logistical solution. I never wanted my life to be so logistically uncertain, either.

What I wanted was for none of this to happen. I wanted to return from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and become a Real Writer. I wanted to have my new full-time job and my new benefits and my newfound stability. I wanted to have a romantic proposal and a romantic wedding and a long teaching career at UNO. I wanted to keep writing my stories about hurricanes—hurricanes that miss New Orleans. That was all I wanted. Stories with happy endings, duh!

And I don’t want these stories—stories of my writing a really corny letter asking my friends and family to write congress, to help save New Orleans. I don’t want to tell stories about the periodic power outages, or the woman at the neighborhood association meeting who claimed she felt like she was being treated like a jew in nazi Germany because of said outages. I don’t want to tell stories about the national guard’s Humvees or the wildfire-fighting trucks that are parked down by the performing arts high school—the same school that educated the Marsalises and is rumored to be slated for funding cuts. I don’t want to tell stories about eating MREs for fun or the green “smooth-move” chiclets that accompany them; about sleeping too much and having nightmares about watermarked buildings; of drinking too much and having drunken conversations about having nightmares about watermarked buildings.

I don’t want to tell any of these stories unless they come with happy endings. If they end happily, they will be the color of nostalgia rather than regret. They will have the character of memories that one wants to hold on to… of memories one regrets not recording. Otherwise, I will read this shit and will think if, if, if…

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