After what seems like weeks, the muddy waters recede, and I finally begin assessing the water damage in earnest. We have had storms before but not like this one. The rain fell for days, thick gray sheets of water that slapped the pavement with a wet scream. At first everything was okay, but by the third day, the sump pump went out, and naturally the basement started filling with water. I stood at the top of the stairs and watched as the bubbling tide seeped into all manner of boxes and blankets. Truthfully I don't even remember what half of this crap is. I sat heavily on the top step with my head in my hands. If Natalie were here.... she would have known what to do. I guess it doesn’t really matter now.
I start down the stairs into the darkness. This old water heater will obviously need replaced. Oozing and burping, it looks like a broken contraption from some kind of monster movie. I know better than to try and mess with it. Thank god I have a stash of bottled water. Hopefully the power will come back on tonight, but I have to try and clean some of this up. Damn I wish Natalie had stayed.
After last month Natalie finally ran out. She just couldn't take it anymore. The drinking, the lying, the constant phone calls. I admit I totally saw this coming. But what can a man do? Natalie already knew about my girlfriend. It turns out she had known for months, but was just too tired to care anymore. I had been out of work for months and living off of my trust fund. If you can even really call that living. Once the money was gone, there was no real reason for her to stay. I wouldn't have stayed either. I just stood there in the driveway as she drove off, wordless. I wanted to say something, something profound... but what? I was too drunk to fight anymore. It just seemed like so much wasted emotion. And so I stood, like a coward, and did absolutely nothing as she backed out of our driveway and out of my life.Another one of my great Life decisions, but that’s for another story.
I sigh and grab the old shovel that hangs on the basement wall. The one with the cracked handle. It feels good in my grasp, heavy and reassuring, a reminder of a simpler season. I guess I better start before the sun goes down.
I shovel away the muck and mire, shards of cardboard and tattered remnants of my broken life. Christmas ornaments, Halloween decorations and ancient video cassettes swirl in a hideous soup. My arms ache. I throw old ruined sweaters into a plastic bag, and beneath my old cd case I find the sopping mess of a photo album. Of course it is beyond destroyed; all the photographs are soaked and stuck together in a huge grey glob. I flip through the pages, which come apart as I turn them. In the middle, I find one photograph almost miraculously untouched. It is a picture of Natalie,ten years ago, standing before the gates of Disneyworld in Orlando, smiling as I take her picture. I hold the photo up to my eyes. For a moment she seems real. I sit heavily on the floor with a splash, heedless of the puddles and grime. I drop the shovel. I rub my forehead with mud- streaked blistering hands. My head is pounding as I remember her the way she was. She is thinking only of the sunshine, and where she will go next.