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“The water’s got to go somewhere.”

May 17, 2011

That is what a Louisiana resident said in an interview a few nights ago when questioned about record flooding and the possible decimation of his small rural town. He didn’t rail about social egalitarianism or the conceivable (and hopefully temporary) loss of his home and land. He was an older gentleman, sun-leathered with a ragged beard and the voice of a blues singer, and his words have stuck with me for the last few days.

“The water’s got to go somewhere.”

He said it so matter-of-factly. No pity. No Pollyanna.

I think I internalized his words so quickly because Mother’s Day had just passed. I am a member of what my friends and I call Dead Moms Club—girls who’ve known the flood of sorrow that skinned up like milk fat, that wouldn’t be washed away with good soap or fine bourbon or a mouthful of religion, that clung day and night as a birthright or a birthmark, doesn’t matter much which; it was to us as forever is to God.  For days, it thickened and soured, tainted every minute with a slick, rotting film and the stench, oh the smell of it was unbearable. It crawled in our noses and had a million babies that marched up and down our throats like spiders on parade. And we cried, bawled our bloody, burning eyes out until we collapsed on piles of stale laundry and dirty dishes and accepted our fate—we were in our twenties or thirties or forties and our mothers were dead; ravaged by The Big C and bad hearts and cruel acts of nature.

But that eventually passed, was washed away by a sea of tears that finally dried up and evaporated into their blue skies, resplendent with pure white clouds and a blinding yellow sun, and then … we laughed. We howled for lives well lived, for no stone left unturned, for courage and the irresistible light of happiness.  We laughed because it made us feel alive in the face of death or because we didn’t know what else to do, but the important thing was the laughter itself – our saving grace, a blessing that poured down from the universe.

The laughter that engulfed our souls was and remains the living, breathing piece of their legacy –those fantastical women who wore red lipstick and bikini underwear with Candie’s platform stilettos; that danced on the boardwalks and and in our avocado-colored kitchens. They were before their time and after everything.  They bought turntables with S&H Greenstamps and recycled cartons of glass Pepsi bottles to buy their records.  They chewed gum in church and wore satin pajamas and sang Bruce Springsteen songs in the shower. They drove too fast and were always late; loved beach sand and mountain air and backyard flowers. They were early bloomers and late-Boomers that cut their teeth on the Stones and the Beatles and thought Seven Spanish Angels would make a perfectly appropriate eulogy.

“The water’s got to go somewhere.”

It’s like this—bad things happen. Unfair things happen. Innocents are injured and the guilty go free. There is imbalance, bigotry, and prejudice. There are miscommunications that hurt and outright lies designed to destroy. We live in a world with free will and compromised freedom. We can build walls and levees and fill a million sandbags, locate ourselves far from the spillway or right in the middle of it, but eventually the flood is going to come. How we handle it is up to us.

“The water’s got to go somewhere.”

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Julie permalink
    May 17, 2011 7:44 am

    You amaze me.

  2. May 17, 2011 7:56 am

    I am always, always slapped in the face by your writing, in a good, have to catch my breath sort of way. This one captured, for me anyway, the beauty, power and fierceness of water and of life.

    • May 17, 2011 8:30 am

      I love the water. It’s like a phantom limb. I can feel it signaling me all the time.

      • May 17, 2011 9:12 am

        Can you feel my beautiful camp beach signaling you to come and visit?

  3. May 17, 2011 10:02 am

    Is that what I’m feeling. I knew it had a familiar ring to it, but I couldn’t find the direction. Oh so tempting. You know how weak I am. 🙂

  4. Emily permalink
    May 17, 2011 10:26 am

    I lost my 57 year old mother a month ago, and the autopsy didn’t show any cause of death. My youngest baby had just turned 6 weeks old. She was my best friend and was over at my house every day. I’ve been feeling so alone like no one could understand. Thank you for post this xx

    • May 17, 2011 1:19 pm

      I know exactly where you’re coming from. My mom was fifty and she died on my first child’s due date. It’s excruciating, but you are not alone. Love to you. xoxo
      Email if you’d like –

  5. Bill S. permalink
    May 17, 2011 11:11 am

    We are always susceptible to floods – floods of water, floods of emotion – floods of words. You, your writing, are forces of nature, Annie. There are always so many sentences with powerful undertones in your pieces that, if I had to pick only one as my “aha!” moment, I’d be hard pressed.

    Every time I read you I think, “It doesn’t get any better than this”. And then I read your next piece and it does.

    • May 17, 2011 1:23 pm

      You are too kind. Period.

      Last night a bunch of folks from back home were getting zapped about the way a high school sports blurb was worded and I was just thinking, *really*, this is where we are right now …

      All the protective layers in the world won’t save you when it comes for you, whether it’s a flood or criticism or despair. It got under my skin. This is how I dealt with it. Maybe there was a little bit of other stuff under there already … hahahaha!

  6. May 17, 2011 11:40 am

    love… u, love ur writing, love ur heart.

  7. Brian Douglas permalink
    May 17, 2011 12:21 pm

    Love it sis, I got a little choked up on that one.

    • May 17, 2011 1:25 pm

      Sorry pal. At least I didn’t end it this way:

      “No matter how much you change, you still have to pay the price for the things you’ve done. So I got a long road. But I know I’ll see you again – this side or the other. ”

      love you!

  8. Joan Haskins permalink
    May 18, 2011 4:40 am

    This makes my jaw drop. Every time I read your writing I think, “THIS one is my favorite.”

  9. May 20, 2011 9:38 am

    You took my breath away. You also gave me a huge surge of hope…about that laughter……

  10. Ann Hunt permalink
    May 20, 2011 6:34 pm

    You, young lady, are a gifted writer. Your work needs to be published and I want to preorder an autographed copy. I remember you so well as a young girl – you were special then and more so today. Your Mother was so proud of you and continues to look down on you and smile.

  11. Owl Says Who permalink
    March 6, 2012 10:35 pm

    Damn, but you’re good. Really, really good. Poetic prose of perspective. Soothing and challenging, all at once. I’m glad to read this before I sleep… I hope to dream in these terms…

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