purple thunderstorm clouds and lightning with the nuff said essay title the flood

Before it all started, I thought I better be safe and get outta town. .

So I threw some things in a bag and drove to my parents’ house in the Hill Country. I’m there two hours and the worry of what might happen to my house while I’m not there (tree falls on it, roof leaks, whatever) is so great I can’t take it. What I would do, exactly, I’m not all that sure. But after driving three hours to my parents’ house and pacing two in my parents’ house, I bid goodbye to my parents, get back in my car, and drive the three hours back to my house. I’m there a few hours and then…

Then the rain comes.

And it doesn’t stop.

I don’t get nervous until I hear this bang-bump. Sounds like something on the roof but I open my front door to find someone has tied a kayak to one of the posts of my front porch. Now I’m getting nervous. Is this some kinda hint? A nice loan from someone who’s already used it? The water starts crawling up the grass but it stops in plenty of time. My house and what I have are safe. The others on my street? Not so lucky. The guy who secured the kayak to my porch comes to retrieve it. He uses it to ferry belongings from his house to somewhere dry. Other people do this all over town. People drown. People go missing. People lose everything. People escape. People are rescued. Everyone is battle-weary. The silver lining is that places where you can volunteer are turning people away. They have enough here. They have enough help there. It is a good problem to have. Too much Samaritanism.

I don’t know why some get spared and others are devastated. I only know that my measure of thankfulness is matched only by my level of survivor guilt. And it’s something no amount of donations or volunteering can assuage. It helps a little. But it also hurts a little. I’m helping those who, if the fates had just made a different decision that day, I could be in their shoes and they in mine. I’m grateful and glad. I’m saddened and heavy. I want to breathe a sigh of relief but it catches in my throat when I think of all those who weren’t so lucky. I’ve never been a lucky man. I was lucky this time.

There WAS a leak in my house. A dicey pipe that had been fixed once before strangely, perversely decided to start leaking the exact moment Harvey bore down. But, quickly, I realized it wasn’t my roof but the stupid pipe. I filled every available container and then turned the water off to mitigate the damage. After heads wiser than mine intervened, I was picked up and taken to my friends’ house and rode out the aftermath there. When I came back to my place, the pipe had done a number on the kitchen and bathroom and, long story short, I’m kicked out of my house for a week while repairs are happening. I didn’t flood but my house has that sour, musty smell of soggy walls, of molding gypsum, of decay.

So I am a temporary refugee who will not return home to devastation but a newly fixed situation. A coat of paint, a new wall shelf to replace the one that fell and broke, you’ll never know anything happened. It’s a minor inconvenience, but a coterie of comrades have offered their spare rooms and their open refrigerators and their dining room tables and their showers and their companionship and I’m so grateful for all of it. I dodged a bullet but that doesn’t mean there weren’t people there to catch me if I was merely grazed.

It is a good thing to have people there for you. Houston has shown the world that no matter how divisive and toxic our nation has become under that sorry excuse for a leader, the spirit of brotherhood can spring to force just like that. And then there are those who came from other locales. The Cajun Coast Guard, people like that. And in all this rain and misery there has been warmth of seeing the better half of our nature. How quick it is to lend a hand, how hard that hand can hold, how welcome it is, how tightly it is held in return.

And that rescue grip transforms into a handshake and an offer of shelter, of help to rebuild yours. And this is how it should be. And I’m proud of mankind that I lived to see it. This is a wonderful city, make no mistake. Filled with wonderful people who’d give you what they have to fill what it is you lack.

I hope that spirit lives long after the roads dry up, after the water evaporates away. I hope I can do my part to do that. I hope very hard I do.