Tuesday night was weird. Enjoyable, but weird.
For starters, the launch party/reading was packed. When I arrived, I assumed that most of the people in the room had contributed to the book, but no, after a show of hands, it became clear that many simply wanted to relive their decade-old memories of losing friends, homes, photo albums, jobs, of living in a wounded city.
I didn’t get it. I don’t get it. I’ve been studiously avoiding most of the Katrina reminiscences, all the anniversary blah-blah that’s been going on for weeks. I mean, I’m sure Anderson Cooper is a nice man, but I already know the story he’s going to run on CNN. I know what all of them are going to say. In 2005, the narrative was pain, despair, loss. Now, it’s resilience, struggle, determination. I got it. I get it.
What I’m saying is, if Cynthia hadn’t asked me to read at the event, I doubt I’d have come on my own.
The other weird thing was that I began choking up in front of all those people. I read the “Home, Briefly” piece — the one about finding our cat, Lola. I’d spent an hour Tuesday afternoon whittling it down a bit, taking out some of the obscure references of the time, making it shorter and more understandable to an audience who may not have been around. I didn’t feel anything particularly profound then. I was just editing.
But saying the words aloud was strange. As they tumbled out of my mouth, I vividly remembered the hesitation of approaching our abandoned house, the joy of believing that Lola had been rescued, the shock of discovering her lifeless body in the study, the anger and sadness I felt while digging her shallow grave in the heat of a mid-September day.
I didn’t cry when I wrote those words, but I almost did when I spoke them ten years later. I’m not sure whether I was crying for me or for Lola or for the city or for the losses of everyone else in the room, which Lola represented at that precise moment in time. Maybe it was all of that.