Monday, July 4, 2016

New Beginnings - Chapter 29

Chapter 29

On my way home I saw the destruction on the side of the roads and Interstate, houses and buildings damaged, and flooded areas everywhere. The road had been closed off in some areas and there were detours everywhere. Traffic was heavy leading into the city but it was even heavier coming out.

I tried to recollect my visit with Shane from Saturday and it hurt so badly. His last words had been that he loved me very much and to not forget that. Had he already been planning to not see me or talk to me again? There was no doubt that it had been painful to visit and see each other and not being able to be together at this time but instead of not seeing him at all I wanted to at least see him when I was allowed. Shane had now put a stop to this.

As I drove into Metairie I became nervous at seeing my place soon. I feared the worst but as I slowly made my way through town I realized the damage had not been too severe out here and even though I did see some flooding it wasn’t near as bad as the flooding happening in New Orleans. I turned onto my street and neared my apartment complex relieved to see my building still standing. It was not flooded around the building but a few blue tarps on the roofs of two other buildings showed that maybe there had been some damage. I parked my car and walked up the stairs.



I soon realized that the power was out here as well. As I stepped inside my apartment I was met with a musty and strange odor. It was very hot and stuffy. My assumption was right as my peeking into the refrigerator almost made me vomit. Everything inside was spoiled and rotten. I quickly slammed the door shut, pressed myself with my back onto the door and tried to catch my breath. The spoiled food smell still lingered around me and I gagged and ran into my bathroom. As I opened the toilet lid the bowl had a dark ring around it from water just standing in it for days. I couldn’t hold it in and I threw up into the toilet. And at the same time I cried and held my hair back. Sweat beads were building on my forehead and I felt moisture under my shirt. I needed a shower.

I sat in my bathroom and I cried. As I turned the knob on the tub faucet the water actually ran but it was somewhat cool. With the heat outside the water wasn’t all the way cold but it didn’t get hot anymore, because the power was out.

After I calmed down and had taken a shower I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning out the refrigerator. When darkness set in and the power was still out I sat there with a flash light in my living room. My cell phone was almost dead, it only had 13 % of battery power left and I turned it off. My landline phone was dead.

I didn’t want to waste the battery power of my flashlight either and even though I had two more flashlights I eventually laid only in panties and a bra on my bed in the darkness. Feelings of loss and despair set in as my mind was racing around Shane, the city, the club, my job, my foster parents, Jay, Ray and Nadine and everyone else I knew. I also felt scared and worried and anxiety set in. My breathing came quickly and I felt my heart beat fast and tried to stay calm but it was difficult. I felt so very alone all the sudden.

Teary eyed I got up and slipped into my robe, took my phone and a flashlight and went out into the stairwell. I didn’t want to be alone and rang the doorbell of my neighbor and friend Missy, who lived on the second floor. I knocked but no one answered. I knocked again and again and no answer. The door across the hallway of Missy’s apartment opened and Terrence, my other neighbor, appeared with a flashlight. Terrence was a skinny black man, living in the apartment with his girlfriend Keisha

“Hey girl, whatcha doing out here in the dark?”
I walked over to Terrence and explained in the light of my flashlight, “I’ve been gone since the hurricane hit and just got back today. I felt scared alone in my apartment and without power and thought I could hang out with Missy.”
He explained, “Girl, Missy left a few days ago, drove out to Texas to stay with her sister.”
I hung my head, “Oh.”
Keisha appeared with a candle behind Terrence, “Hey Anna, we were wondering where you went off to.”
Terrence added, “Come on in, you can hang out with us. My sister and two nieces are staying with us right now too. My sister’s place got flooded.”

With that two young girls appeared behind him and looked at me curiously.
Terrence turned around to them, “These are Monique and Shari.”
I smiled at the two girls and they shyly smiled back at me.
I walked in and Keisha hugged me, “Come on, we have a battery operated radio running, keeping up with all this tragedy in the city. Where have you been?”

I ended up spending the night at their place. We talked and we played some board games in the light of only candles, ate chips and drank bottled water. I heard from Terrence’s sister that she had lost everything in the floods.
 
When it was morning, I had breakfast with them, sandwiches with jelly and peanut butter. According to the radio apparently things were getting better in Metairie and the power company was working overtime in bringing power back to all the residents.

I also heard on the radio that Charity hospital had been severely hit by the storm, had sustained lots of damage, and could not operate anymore. Patients had to be evacuated and some had died in the hospital because they couldn’t get evacuated quickly enough. Bodies were still being recovered from the building. I sat in front of the radio crying and thinking about Charity hospital.

After breakfast with my neighbors I went back up to my apartment and decided to try to find food at a store somewhere in Metairie. I still had a half full tank of gas and at least I could run the air conditioner in the car while driving around. It was hot and muggy outside. Mosquitos were having a blast now. I ended up at a small corner store in Metairie. They were operating the store with a generator and even though they didn’t have much on the shelves I did buy some crackers and juice bottles.

As I made my way back to my apartment I contemplated just driving up to Ponchatoula to be with Al and Cindy. I wouldn’t make it too long without power in my apartment and I really felt clueless at what was going to happen. Shane kept racing around my mind, I still couldn’t grasp that he had shut me out like this. Thinking about it made me sad and hopeless and I really didn’t know how I could be there for my boyfriend anymore if he didn’t let me into his life at this point.

At my apartment I turned on my phone and called Al and Cindy. I was relieved I was able to reach them and even though the connection was bad I was able to communicate to them that I was going to pack some stuff and come that way. I didn’t know how the roads were, I didn’t know if I could make it but I had made up my mind.

I made sure there was nothing left in my apartment that could spoil. Instead I packed a large bag with nonperishable items from my cabinets. Cindy could use it all and it wouldn’t get bad. I packed my suitcase with the wheels on it. I had only used it once to fly up to New York with Ray and Nadine to check out a club up there. Now it was stuffed with clothes again, some shoes and toiletries.

I was on the road around four that afternoon, it was raining some now and still muggy outside. I drove along I-10 for a while and it was moving slowly. People were still leaving the city even though it had been over a week now since hurricane Katrina had struck. On the other side going toward the city I saw a long convoy of military vehicles making it seem like we were in a war zone. The city was broken very badly and just watching and hearing the news everyone knew that it was just really, really bad. My apartment was still there, but there was nothing for me to live off there. I had no reason to stay in Metairie and I had no reason to be in Morgan City anymore either.

When I finally hit the turn off to I-55 it was almost five. What should have taken about an hour took me until almost seven when I finally turned into the all familiar driveway of my old home. Cindy came running out, Al behind her and as I got out we hugged tightly.

“Oh my God Anna, I’m so happy to see you. I was hoping and praying you would be all right. You can stay here as long as you need to.”
Al hugged me as well, “I’m glad to have you home with us now Anna. Come on in.”
He looked at my car, “Do you have luggage in there?”
I nodded and he said, “I’ll get that for you. You go on in with Cindy.”
Cindy had her arm around me, “Oh Lord, this is all so horrible what is happening in the city. All those poor people, it’s unbelievable what they’re going through. Have you talked to Nadine?”
“No, I haven’t been able to get in touch with them but I know the French Quarter is flooded and I’m worried about the club being flooded. I don’t even want to think about it. I don’t know how things are going to be.”
“Don’t worry about it right now Anna. You stay here with us now until things calm down in the city. We’re blessed that we still have power. We lost it for about three days but the generator helped us out. Now we’re back on.”
“That’s good.”

I felt very safe in my old home, Cindy took care of me right away and soon I had a dinner in front of me, my foster parents sitting at the table across from me wanting to hear about everything that was going on. I didn’t really say anything about Shane just yet.

It was after dinner when I sat on the couch and Cindy next to me asked softly, “So what about Shane?”
I took a deep breath and started with a shaky voice, “It’s not so good.”
As I told them everything that had happened I started crying and eventually I was cuddled up to Cindy and she had her arm around me, trying to comfort me.
“Now, now…if he told you not to forget that he loves you, that means something, child. Don’t give up on him yet. The boy just hasn’t really been blessed with an easy life but the Lord has a plan for you and him. Sometimes it’s so hard to understand what the plan is but the Lord has a reason for everything.”

Being with Al and Cindy made me feel content and for the next few days I tried to forget and not think about all the bad things that had happened and were still happening. Every day I went with Cindy to their local church where a shelter was being operated, holding about 40 families who had fled from the city. We cooked for them, gave them supplies and made sure they had clean and comfortable beds to sleep in. We were there for these families as they had no idea what would become of their lives.

Helping these people made me forget somewhat and only when I talked to Jordan and Jenny I was reminded of Shane. Jordan still had a difficult time with being shut out by his brother and he was just angry at Shane. I tried to calm his mind some but it didn’t help. He didn’t understand how Shane could have done this to us.

It was one evening when my phone played its ringtone, I was just in the kitchen helping Cindy with dinner.
I grabbed my phone from the table and when I looked at it I saw Nadine’s face on the display. I was excited and quickly answered.
“Nadine?”
Nadine sounded just as relieved on the other end, “Oh my Lord, Anna…I’m so happy to hear your voice honey. Are you okay?”
“I’m all right, but what about you and Ray, what about the club?”

Nadine sounded sad, “Oh Anna, the club got flooded and has sustained lots of damage. We haven’t been able to go there. We are so devastated. Ray had a breakdown. I had to take him to the hospital last week, they kept him for a few days. It was so scary Anna. I’ve been trying to get in touch with all the girls from the club, I haven’t all of them accounted for yet. I’m so scared for everyone. We also had some damage to the roof on our house out here and a bunch of trees uprooted.”
“Is Ray okay again?”
“He is, he’s on some anxiety meds. It’s breaking his heart what’s happening in the French Quarter and parts of the city. He’s filled with so much pain about what’s probably going to be lost with the club. Thank God we have insurance. He really wanted to help you with bailing Shane out but then the hurricane hit and everything stopped. How is Shane and his family?”


I told Nadine about Shane and what happened and also told her that I was now staying with my foster parents.

“My dear Anna, I’m just glad you’re safe and okay. I’m glad Shane’s family is okay at least. I know you’ll be with him again. It’s probably just been too painful for him to see you and not be able to be with you.”
I heard Ray in the background and then Nadine telling him that I was okay and doing well.
“Nadine, are you guys going to rebuild the club again?”
Nadine replied with motivation, “Yes, Anna dear, of course we’ll rebuild. No question about it. We’ll make it even more exciting and beautiful than what it was before. And you’ll be part of it as always.”
I sighed and swallowed, trying to contain my tears, “I’ll be there with you guys all the way. The club is like a home to me, you’re like parents to me and I can’t even begin to imagine not having this anymore. Right now everything just seems so hopeless.”
“Anna, there’s always hope and the Lord will show the way.”

“I hope so.”

I talked for a few more minutes with Nadine until the connection turned somewhat scratchy and we finished with the promise to stay in touch again and that they would let me know once they were able to go back to the club.
“I just want you to stay out in Ponchatoula right now, Anna…I know you’re safe there.”
“I’ll stay here until at least I get power back in my apartment.”
“I love you baby girl. And Ray loves you too.”
“I love you guys. I can’t wait to see you again soon I hope.”

                                                              ________________________________
 

Four more weeks went by and I stayed with Al and Cindy the whole time. The city was barely recovering from the disaster. There was help from the Military and the government. The death toll was rising daily and it was sheer devastation in the some parts of the city, so much that entire blocks would have to be torn down.

I kept in touch with Jordan and Jenny but Shane had not revoked his decision. We had no idea how he was doing and where he even was. We didn’t know if he was still in Morgan City in jail or not. We didn’t know if he had had a court date yet but with the infrastructure in the Southern part of Louisiana basically all the way gone, administrative business was moving very slow or not at all. So Jordan doubted that Shane had had a date yet.

My biggest fear was to hear from him one day and finding out he was back at Louisiana State Penitentiary and having to finish his sentence. I thought of him all the time and I wondered about our relationship and about us. I didn’t know where we had really left off, what we were and what our relationship was about now. I wasn’t even sure if I was still in a relationship with Shane and I pushed the thoughts of possible having lost him far away in the back of my mind. I thought of him a lot and I missed him so very much. I would cry for a while, then stop and then move on trying to make it day by day.

I finally got power back on at my place and I went back to Metairie. In the meantime, Ray and Nadine had been able to go check out the club and assess the damage. It wasn’t as bad as expected, but still they would have to rebuild and restore. The latest news was that they were waiting for an insurance assessor to come out and do their report. It could take days or weeks until someone could come out. Everything was out of control with people having lost everything.

I was able to live of my savings at that time and while I couldn’t work I helped at the Salvation Army shelter in Metairie. I went there every single day and helped cook and serve meals, entertain children and help with medical issues. The sheer devastation of the lives of so many kept my mind occupied and in a constant state of sadness but in the middle of all the tragedy rays of light would shine in the form or relatives being reunited, a baby being born or a family being able to move back into their home.

At night though when I was laying in my bed I missed Shane next to me. I wondered how he was doing and every Wednesday either Jordan or I would try to call the jail but we were not put through to him. I cried a lot at night, really about everything and I missed him so much and I hoped and prayed that our relationship was not lost and swept away with this hurricane. I didn’t write to Shane because the postal service was basically out and only worked on emergency personnel. Everywhere services were limited to the neediest people and all services only operated slowly. Clean up was in full swing in the city, bodies were being recovered daily and it was heartbreaking.

September came and went and October was right ahead. I started meeting Ray and Nadine regularly at a cafĂ© midpoint and we talked a lot about the future of the club and what we envisioned. We were hopeful and we were motivated. The insurance was still assessing the reimbursements for all the damages to the club and the furnishings and equipment. So Ray and Nadine could only wait and hope that things would somehow work out. They had to let everyone go and even I wasn’t officially employed by them anymore. I was still living off savings and I knew if I couldn’t get on with them anytime in the near future I would have to find a job. I was still part of anything that had to do with the club, they just couldn’t pay me anymore officially but they had made clear to me that if I needed financial help they would have my back. Al and Cindy had told me the same thing so I knew even if I would run out of money they would help me out.

I was still able to pay my rent and utilities and was able to buy what I needed for food, which wasn’t a lot because I mostly ate at the shelter in Metairie. I went there every day and the people needing help didn’t seem to let up. We were always busy and I also volunteered to stay overnight two nights a week. Sometimes people would arrive there in the middle of the night needing help. Only slowly things were getting easier but the destruction hurricane Katrina had left in its path was overwhelming for the city and the state.

Helping at the shelter filled out my days into the evening and some of my nights as well. I made new friends and at the end of October my supervisor approached me and wanted to see if I would want to officially be employed by the Salvation Army for the shelter supply management. It didn’t take long for me to answer and I took the job. It was only minimum wage but since I was basically there full time anyways and was dealing a lot with all the supplies we needed and managed it was an easy and quick transition. I was very happy about this opportunity and was thankful to not have to use up any more of my savings which had been depleting quickly.

Shane was still on my mind day and night. He never revoked the no call and no visit request and even though I couldn’t understand and Jordan was still very angry at this we had no choice. We had no idea what was going on with him. I hadn’t stopped loving him and he was the only man I could think of and the only man I ever wanted to be with. He was with me in my thoughts every moment of the day and I still wanted to have hope that Shane and I could be together again one day.

3 comments:

  1. Can't wait to read on about what is going on in Shane's life.
    Thanks for writing and sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's wonderful, that for all of her own troubles, Anna can find room to help out others. Great characters!

    ReplyDelete