Flood Season: June 2008
The months of July and August often herald the beginning of the rainy season for us. It was still June, the last time I checked, and James went home last night just in time before the winds began to rise. It had been raining all day, and had been raining still when I went to bed. By noon, I awoke to dreary skies and even more rain -- coupled with gray rivers in place of streets in front of the complex.
When you've lived in a subdivision that gets invaded by floods of this sort on a yearly basis for about the past ten years of your life, you eventually get used to it. Back when I was still a teenager, I admit I looked forward to these cold, wet episodes. These meant canceled classes and more time to read or do stuff at home, but that also meant hauling, shifting, and moving certain first-floor items to higher ground. When the flood-water began creeping in onto the pebbled Star of David on the front porch, it's time to start packing the books, DVDs, bric-a-brac, onions, garlic, and other things the water could get to. Water lapping at the front door in a heavy shower meant rolling up carpets, lifting the couches onto the sturdy dining table and fitting the other single-seaters into it like a puzzle. An inch of water indoors meant lifting the 50-pound refrigerator onto the kitchen counter, rescuing the rice, rice cooker, canned goods, pack noodles, matches and (and the dog) from the kitchen and hieing to the second floor. Half a foot of water in the house meant lights off -- and circuit breaker off.
When you live in a place where it floods every year, you get used to it. The family breaks out the rags, the towels, and the alcohol, and by the time everyone's done with their baths, hot rice and tuna and sardines will be ready in the master's bedroom. You huddle together, throwing jokes and telling stories over a steaming rice and fish, and perhaps some leftovers. Meals are best eaten with fingers and stories.
You retire for the night, taking care to put out your candle. (Careful, you don't want to turn into a lighthouse, not like the last time.) you listen to your neighbors as they parody Titanic, the dog's ribs rising and falling as she curls up to you as she thinks you to be the best thing in all the world.
In the morning, when the flood begins to subside, someone is sent out for cleaning ware, and the soaping, the scrubbing, the exorcising begins. Your uncle handles muriatic acid in the first floor bathroom, and banishes a frightened sewer snake back to the pipes. Your mother finds two catfish, abandoned by the water and gulping for dear life in the kitchen sink. By mid-afternoon, You're sent out to buy goto for the family and you come back all smiles, your treasures of hot, saffroned rice porridge and boiled ox tripe, one bag a serving.
I once told all this to a good friend of mine, a certain Mr. Francis Martinez. He was my teacher for Poetry Writing in College, and god bless him, wherever he is now. He once wrote a warm poem about the morbid fear of sitting down, and he went on to write two more poems on the floods. It was quite sweet of him to give them to me, and I reckon it would do him great justice to show them here. Now, to remember where I last put them....
When you live in a place that floods every year, you get used to it.