Our office closed early yesterday, as client after client called to cancel their afternoon appointments and the director of the agency--my boss--threw her arms wide and declared herself a new person. "Before the storm, I would never have done this," she confided, breathlessly, as we gathered up our bags and raincoats. "I never would have closed the office." I thanked her for letting us go home and she advised me, before hurrying off down the hall, to make sure to use the bathroom, "in case you get stuck." And I had a moment of clear, sharp panic, followed by a wave of nausea so intense I had to stop and contemplate whether I was really able to drive myself home.
It was just before 2 p.m. and word on the street was that there was water on the street--and lots of it. I got in my little car and headed down Causeway, shaking, gulping down wave after wave of panic. I waited for the water and tried to calm down. I called Cade on my cell phone and was not a very nice person. "Tell me which way I should go," I demanded, then snapped and sighed as he thought about it. I drove through water at Jefferson Highway and had to focus very intently on my breathing, on not passing out or throwing up. I drove through more water at the foot of Oak Street and realized that what I was having, what I had been having, was nothing short of an acute stress reaction. I mean, shit. It was textbook.
The funny thing is, it has nothing to do with The Storm; this has everything to do with the afternoon, just about 5 years ago, when I went to pick up my friend Jen at the airport and got stuck on I-10 headed back into the city. Silly me: I assumed an accident, or rubber-necking, or construction or something. Sure, we'd had two tropical storms worth of rain in a little over a week, but the deluge seemed to have successfully resolved into a trickle, no harm done. And I'd just moved to town the year before, so I had no idea that the particular section of the interstate on which I was sitting was just west of that horrible little dip, the part that always floods, the part that on that afternoon had flooded so horribly, and so rapidly, that several cars had been consumed by the floodwaters, the rescue helicopters had been dispatched to the scene, and I was stuck, oh my god, on this road, with no way out except to drive over the sodden grass and onto the service road, where more and more cars were stranded, stalled out, stuck, and I turned up and down each road, through ridiculous waters that should have flooded my tiny little car, until I realized that there was no way home. We made it out to Cade's parents place in Ama and I knew, in some deep, sacred place, that I had landed a phenomenal in-law situation when, after I rejected her offer of hot tea and asked for something cold and alcoholic, Jara laughed and brought me an Abita.
In the end we were just fine, of course, and returned home the next day to a randomnly puddled but otherwise recuperated city. But apparently I was affected by all of this; apparently I can no longer drive through thunderstorms without losing my shit. But next time, I guess, I can use my deep breathing, guided imagery, positive self-talk, and one other, brand-spanking new technique I learned yesterday, in the kitchen at Abeona House, as I took one last moment to steady myself before fetching Sydney from her classroom: alternate nostril breathing.