Two.

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The roof roared with the pouring rain up until ten minutes ago. God picks up cupped handfuls of water out of the Gulf of Mexico and drops it in sheets into the swamps where we live. Cities in Southeast Louisiana are built on lily pads and it only gets more-so as you swim toward the Equator from here. The earlier deluge has been replaced by fast silent drops and it’s gotten a bit lighter outside at a time of day when it generally is getting darker. I’m at Ray’s, my friend Ray’s. Ray is also an Iraq veteran. Josh is staying here while he recovers from surgery, Josh not Ray. Josh was hit on his bicycle by a car during Mardis Gras; the driver didn’t even stop.  When I got the news I got to the hospital as quickly as I could in parade traffic and we spent the next twenty-four hours with me fanning him with a piece of cardboard (it was balls-hot in that emergency room, you could’ve baked muffins in there) while he moaned in pain. I saw the x-ray. His humerus was broken in half and one of the halves had a big piece broken off of it. He’s shoulder was so out of joint that it looked like his arm was lying beside his body on the bed, connected only by skin. I hate to see people suffer. I especially hate to see people I love suffer. If there was anything I could have done to feel that pain for him, I would. He’s a big ole boy like me. Nearly as tall as me and probably as heavy. I’m tipping the scale at 267 these days. He’s farm stock too, from Ohio. Tough. A Marine.  Every time they’d get close to getting him on the operating table another more-urgent trauma would come in, a gun-shot wound or a stabbing—New Orleans during Mardis Gras y’know? There’s a pretty, colorful, and bright side to the month-long party leading up to the Lenten Season here in the City on the Crescent of the Mighty Mississip’. There is the dark and scary underneath as well.  Two people were killed by Mardis Gras floats this year.

A Voodoo Priestess catches my eye and points to the top of the wreckage of the Hard Rock Hotel construction site. “Two.” She says to my soul. I look to the top of the building’s naked skeleton, the doomed ruins, and when I look to the Spiritualist again she is gone. I’d just taken a grinning picture in front of a red Lamborghini on Canal with the Hard Rock in the background. Two bodies lie rotting in the rubble. It’s not safe to try to recover them. When I let the Priestess’s monosyllabic admonishing sink in, I realized the profound significance and what she was inferring. While we hedonistic revelers twirled like dervishes and exposed ourselves for plastic beads, the Rosary of the Decadent, on the streets below; those two bodies remained uninterred—pierced like Ajax on the sword of Capitalism and greed.  Some say the unquiet souls of those dead workers exacted the two-life penalty turning two parades into death processions. Two undocumented workers had warned the structure was unsafe before the catastrophe happened. ICE absconded with them and threw them out of the country before they could tell their tale. Insidious.

Josh had his second surgery today, this time to reconnect the pieces of his humerus. I don’t understand why they didn’t do that the first time they operated but to be honest that would seem unlikely since it was University Hospital and they seem convicted that everything must be done wrong before anything else is tried. Today, he starts the whole painful healing process again. At least he wasn’t cut in twain by a Mardis Gras float.


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