Lee Circle, Up High

The circumstances that brought me into this situation were the surreal part of this whole experience. I’d been, essentially, air-dropped into New Orleans about 150 years into the future and, standing on the rotted wood of a porch on stilts, I decided to go for a walk. This splintered and unstable porch was attached to a shack. I assumed we were in some sort of fishing camp type of place. It was dark out, so I couldn’t really see the outdoor surroundings. But, I wanted to go for a walk because the people inside the shack were going to kill me.

I take that back. They didn’t want to kill me yet. That was on the next day’s agenda.

Myself and about 7 other people had been transported here by a television network, to be in a reality competition series. This series was akin to Hunger Games, really, a survival-of-the-fittest theme. We were all to spend the evening in this shack together, all friendly-like, and then go out the next day and try to wipe each other off the map to amp up network ratings. I was unwilling to commune, so I went for a walk.

It was so dark I didn’t realize that the sidewalk I was on was above the water until I got to Lee Circle. Hell, I didn’t even know I was in the City until I came upon the Circle and the straggling few streetlamps that lit the area.  When I got there, I stood, and looked, gasped, and wept.

Facing upriver, toward the overpass and my neighborhood and uptown beyond, as far as I could look, was water.  It wasn’t stagnant water.  It was an ocean.  And the waves lapped the sides of the last buildings standing, those tall enough to have their noses sticking out, like swimmers gasping for air.  The K&B plaza was still there, only the top two stories out of its seven were visible.  Same as far as I could stretch my vision, all the way up St. Charles.

That’s when I realized I’d been walking on a raised street, like taking a stroll on an interstate overpass.  Lee Circle, somehow, had been saved from whatever natural chaos had caused this to happen.  They’d raised it, as though it were on an overpass of its own, the streets that intersect on the roundabout like a whirlwind of on/off ramps.    Lee Circle was an island in the middle of, I somehow knew, the Gulf of Mexico, which had decided to reclaim the land for its own.  I could tell by the tide, and the smell.

Shrieking in grief, I made a slow lap around the Circle.  Downriver, toward the CBD, the French Quarter, and beyond, it was dark.  Pitch black.  Nothing there, except for the sidewalk-on-stilts, leading who knows where.

The Circle itself looked almost exactly the same, for being 10 stories up in the air as it was.  The pillar, the statue, the green mound and the steps leading up to it.

Except that the green space, all the way around, was a cemetery.

There was an iron fence around the green part, with gates, and only one entrance.  Laid out in a pie-like fashion, the tombs stood there looking so familiar as a bastion of the city, but so completely out of place.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.  At the gate, there was a woman keeping watch.  Short and kind of squat, in dingy white culottes and a pink t-shirt, she peered at me from behind her coke-bottle glasses and her frazzled half-grey hair and smiled sympathetically as she saw my face.

She was nice enough, service-industry, pleasant but distant.  She knew I was a resident, but had no idea I was there from the past.  She just thought I was there to pay respects, or to mourn.  The fence and the gate, she said, were to keep the vagrants out.  I had to laugh, a little, to know something hadn’t changed.  That people still tried to sleep on the grassy hill of Lee Circle, or park their behinds on the steps to share a bottle in a paper bag.  The gate, she said, was not only an outpost to keep an eye on the place BUT (and here she waved a locked tin box at me) also a place to charge admission because, somehow, there were still people from Outside that came to visit, once in a while.  Sometimes.

The cemetery at Lee Circle, she said, was there because it was the only dry land left.

And it was full.

I didn’t go in.

Instead, I circled back around to the Uptown view, and watched the Gulf waves eddy around the K&B building, and woke myself up in tears.

One Comment Add yours

  1. What a horrible and fascinating dream. I would weep too.

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