Katrina, my first dependent

24Nov08

katrinaAugust, 2005.  I was trying to drink myself to death in Mid-City but my liver had too much heart.  Then Katrina descended upon New Orleans.

I had heard it would be intense, but no one had any idea just how bad things could get.  As the wind and rain pummeled my shotgun apartment and the waters rose I had to get onto the roof with what little provisions I had, so I wouldn’t be swept away.  As the storm dragged on, I watched corpses mixed with garbage and raw sewage float by.  In the distance I could hear agonizing screams and gunshots.  Later, I would learn that women were being raped before having their throats slit.  Police and National Guardsmen were shooting innocent people.  Dead bodies stayed where they fell for days, left to rot like roadkill.  I wasn’t completely aware of it at the time, but I was in a real life horror story.

About halfway through the second day, I cursed myself for running out of water.  I had plenty of Dixie beer and some Kentucky bourbon, but that was pretty much it.  Something had to be done, so I fashioned a boat out of floating debris and paddled down what used to be Orleans street.   After a few hours of floating aimlessly I heard the wailing of a woman atop her roof.  I paddled over to see what the matter was and realized she was in labor.  Amid the squalid conditions I tried to remember my training from years prior, but the memories were hazy at best.  I was confused and drunk and freaked out; a hurricane was crushing our world and a baby was about to be born.

“My name is Knox,” I told the woman.  “I’ve been trained in this before and I will help you have this baby.  I know you’re scared and this is all crazy, but I’m going to get you through this.  Do you trust me?”

She nodded.  The process was long and painful and soaked in rain water and the Mississippi’s splashing filth.  Soon after her baby’s crowning, I realized that I didn’t have the necessary tools to stop her hemorrhaging.  I couldn’t bring myself to tell her though; she looked so happy with her beautiful baby in her arms.  Despite the hurricane, the death, the squalor and the fear, I saw a woman who was, for a moment, at peace with the universe.

When she died, I realized I didn’t even know her name.  It occurred to me that, to this point in my life, no one had ever depended on me before—not for anything that really mattered, anyway.  It scared the shit out of me.  And there I was with this newborn, motherless baby girl, in the midst of one of the greatest natural disasters in my country’s history, with nothing but whiskey and beer. Me and baby Katrina sat atop that roof and sobbed together, our tears falling to the ground to mix with the raw sewage, rain water, dead bodies and the mighty Mississippi.



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