Life is Precious (Part One)

November 14, 2010
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I had wanted to see the movie “Precious” from the moment critics began raving about it. They gave it four stars, sometimes five, however, the only stars that counted were the ones I deemed appropriate to give the movie. After all, the critics never liked good movies, right? I grabbed the disc I rented earlier that day and popped it into my DVD player, set the controls, then hopped up into bed settling myself in for the movie. There was nothing special about the day. Well, unless you count the monsoon happening outside. Anybody who lived in Tennessee long enough to witness the seasons change could tell you the weather here is bipolar, but this rain was becoming slightly ridiculous. It was the second day of nonstop, torrential downpours and records had already been broken the first day. Despite the damage and gloomy weather surrounding middle Tennessee I was in a particularly good mood. My friend Keli and I were texting, as usual. The topic was about the mobile home that floated down the highway earlier that day, all the cars and houses now underwater, and how this all led to us having no school as well as Keli being stuck at her mom’s friend’s house. We talked as if it wasn’t really happening to us, only as if it were a tragic movie like “Precious.” This is why I didn’t like this movie. I wasn’t a fan of the whole atmosphere the movie brought. It’s just too depressing. Fortunately I didn’t have to suffer long. Little did I know I was about to witness my own tragic movie. In the corner of my eye I saw three of four sets of headlights racing down my driveway. It was only 10:30 so I assumed it was my brother with his rambunctious and rowdy friends who came here to play pool. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary so I turned my attention back to the morbid, two, maybe three star movie. Suddenly, a loud bang drew my attention away from the movie. The downstairs door was slammed against the wall followed by my mom yelling to anybody who could hear her, “We’re going to be flooded! Get everything from downstairs, upstairs!” Her voice was quivering, just a small sign that things were not good. My mind was racing. How could we be flooded? We had a pond in our back yard that had already over flooded with water, yesterday, but it was too far away from our house to make it a serious concern. I sprang out of bed and ran to my bedroom window.

The solid ground that could always be depended on to be there was now replaced by a few inches of water. Despite being in a somewhat controlled environment inside I was shaking and my body had turned cold. I grabbed my phone and texted Keli. I needed comfort and some reassurance. I told her we were going to lose the house. She replied with words of comfort: “it’ll be alright, you’ll be okay, don’t worry.” Not even the easing words of my best friend could calm my frantic self. I set my phone down and ignored it. My brother came out from his room, surprising me, because I didn’t even know he was home. We exchanged a quick glance before racing downstairs together. The sight of my mom dripping wet in a giant raincoat and rubber boots greeted me and my brother. “The sink hole across the street flooded. The Blacks two doors down called us to warn us it was coming so we went to help them, but it never stopped. It’s surrounding our house. We need to get everything upstairs, now.”

After that it was a mad dash race against the rising water. We started by grabbing he little things off the tables and shelves. My brother and I would run them upstairs and dump it wherever there was space: my room, his room, the bonus room and even the workout room. It took a frantic hour of running around to get everything safely upstairs. We had to leave our two bedroom suites, our two big couches, and our big screen TV, and all our bigger appliances because they were too heavy to lift. At this time Hunter had gone to find my dad so that they could go help all the neighbors keep their stuff from floating away. I finally had a chance to catch a breath and realize what was going on. I decided it was time to go outside and see what we were really facing. Before going out into the war zone I remembered my phone. I grabbed it and saw I had a few texts from Keli wondering if I was okay and one from another friend, Amanda. Keli must have already informed her of what was happening. We were all really close but I just couldn’t talk to them, to anyone. I sent a quick text telling her I couldn’t talk right now then opened the garage door. At that point, my adrenaline was the only thing that kept me standing. The water had reached almost a foot high in the garage. Slowly with fear I pulled on my boots and walked into the newly formed lake. It was almost like a river in sound and sight, crashing against my body like roaring waves of an ocean. The water rushed past my legs so quickly it knocked me off balance at times. By the time I reached the middle of our driveway it was up to my knees. Yet despite the horrific movie I was playing in, my emotions were numb, which gave me the strength to round up and contain everything in our garage. Bracing ourselves and the house from the rapidly rising water, we unplugged everything and turned the air conditioning off. We covered the bottom of the doors and vents with towels not knowing how much water would actually get in the house. It was rising quickly though and had already reached the bottom of our door. My brother, Hunter, and I, sat down on the stairs and did all we could do at the time, wait. As the clock hit 1 A.M. we were all still wide awake. Then, our heads flung up as we heard a curse come from dad. He came walking in from the other room and said with an unsteady voice, “Go upstairs and pack,” he paused. “Pack for a few days.” With that command and my pounding heart we raced upstairs and maneuvered through the newly formed storage bin that was created out of our second floor. It was less than two minutes and we were all back in a group at the bottom of the stairs. A thin layer of water had already started to cover the hardwood floor. My dad asked us if we were all ready. Our response of head nods signaled his lead. He opened the front door letting all the pent up water rush in. He trekked off into the darkness of the water holding a suitcase above his head. My mom followed after him with another suitcase as he came back for another one drenched. I had the task of carrying my cat so my dad took my bag and left again. I was the last one to go. I turned around and gave my house one last look. I felt like I was leaving it behind forever. I turned back to face the water, hugged my cat close, and slowly walked into the deep waters.

The water was cold, not refreshingly cold but uninvitingly and piercingly cold, especially for it being May. My cat was clinging to my neck making it hard to concentrate. The water had reached just below my chest and I had to make it to the top of my driveway without tripping or losing my shoes. I had started to notice a few things. The current had become stronger and the air was beginning to smell raunchy. With my brother and mom behind me we all made it to the cars without losing our footing. We all piled into our Sequoia and waited for our dad. He went to turn off all the electricity although the box was almost completely underwater. He waded back and told us he was going to drive the other two cars to a neighbor’s house a few blocks away. We sat in the car watching the madness of the monsoon waiting for him to come back. After he came back and shut the door there was nothing but silence. All that could be heard was our breathing. Then when I thought I could manage speaking without my voice quivering I asked where we were going to go. After a few moments of thought between my parents my mom said we would go to my grandmothers for a little while. After establishing an object to work towards we drove away from home ready to accomplish our goal. With something to focus on a feeling of safety overcame us. That was short lived. We had only driven past ten houses before black water came into our headlights. We were trapped. My dad got out of the car in order to see how deep the water was. We watched him through the windshield. Once he got to his waist he turned around and came back to the car. He shook his head and told us it was too deep to drive through, that we’ll have to go back to the flooded house. Hunter and I looked at each other and he offered a better idea of having someone come and pick us up. So after a few minutes of discussion a new plan was set. Our own friends would come pick me and my brother up while my parents went back and slept upstairs at the house. Hunter and I got out of the car and waded on foot through the water and walked as far as we possibly could. All I could think about was who would be up at this hour and who even knows what our situation is. Only two people: Keli and Amanda. I knew Keli was stuck in her own situation so she couldn’t help but Amanda might be able to. I called her, frantically waiting to hear her voice on the other end. Finally, after what seemed like hours, she answered. I tried with all my might to keep my voice steady, but no luck. Without much hesitation, she declared she was on her way. The only thing left to do was to get to them.

My parents wanted to walk with us because it was so dark and regardless of how well we knew the bumps and curves of the two-mile road we could easily step off into the submerged ditch. So the four of us started our journey. We took off our shoes and pressed our possessions to our chests to try and preserve them best we could and reluctantly started walking down the street and into the water, with Hunter leading. This water seemed to be even more penetrating and piercing to my skin than the first pool we encountered. But, finally, at two in the morning I looked into the reflection of the moon below me and my emotions caught up to the situation. My eyes filled with heated tears and blurred my vision as my feet were being cut by the debris that had been swept onto the street by the determined waters. The ominous water rose to my belly button and all that was visible was the steady glow of the moon. It didn’t feel real. No one ever thinks about his or her house being flooded or burned or destroyed by a tornado. Not many have to wonder where they’re going to sleep that night. I realized then how selfish I was to take common objects like a bed or clothes for granted.

After walking through about thirty feet, the water started to recede and we stepped onto visible asphalt. Up ahead we could see another body of water we were going to have to wade through and chances were if this much of the road was flooded over the beginning of the street must be too, meaning we had a long way to go. We stumbled through two more long stretches of that black water until headlights hit us. From the front of the white car I could see the Cadillac symbol. Amanda. Exhausted from fighting the relentless water, Hunter and I stopped and waited for our parents to catch up, but Amanda got to us first. Her father was driving and her sister was in the front and she was in the back. I didn’t realize it then, but she must have thought sitting in the back with me might help comfort me. It did.

After departing from our parents, Amanda’s family took both of us and drove us to the top of the street where we patiently waited for Hunter’s ride. Amanda remembered that construction had begun on a neighborhood that connected to the side of my road and that’s how they found us. By the time they finished explaining their discovery Hunter’s ride had arrived. We parted ways, not speaking a word to one another, and that is exactly how the ride to Amanda’s went, too.

We got to my new home away from home and Amanda’s mother warmly embraced me, somehow sending my shivers elsewhere and making me feel safe for the first time that night. I went to the bathroom to peel off my filthy clothes. I was cold, dripping wet, and wide awake considering it was two thirty in the morning. I took my time, careful to keep my emotions balanced, then walked back to the living room where I found my sisterly friend Amanda had already set up an air mattress for me. She didn’t ask questions about what had happened or if I was okay, she just let me lie down and rest. She was good at not asking questions and was probably the only one who could have handled me the right way that night, because we both lacked in the ability to talk about our feelings. After thirty minutes or so of laying there thinking, I got up softly and slipped into the kitchen. There, for the first time that night, I cried.

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