It's a beautiful day in Houston. Cool air this morning, a bright blue sky, a few lazy white clouds. No clue that today is the first full day of Autumn, but also nothing at all hints to what we all know is coming. Everyone is leaving, yet nothing is moving. It's taking over an hour to drive fifteen miles. This is surreal.
I flew in last night over long chains of traffic where there normally would be none. That was my first view of the reality. Driving home, I was one of a very few cars heading south. On the opposite side of the freeway, a gridlock of cars and trucks heading North. I went straight to the restaurant to meet friends for dinner and drinks. It's what we do when something is on the horizon, we gather to see and support each other - together, we've ridden through many storms literal and figurative over the years. Last night we were a somber group. Some gripped with fear, others having dread run through their veins. Each of us tired, burdened with sadness and stunned with disbelief. Conversation was not what I would call light. There were moments, yes, but the wave of the present would crest over us again and I'd look out over the table at these women, watching their eyes, seeing the desperation and the wait. Later, we stumbled through our good-byes, lingering a bit longer than normal, holding the hugs a bit tighter, promising to be careful, take care and check in.
This morning, I set out for extra bags of dog food. I passed long lines at the gas stations; other gas stations have the pumps wrapped and are boarded tight. Stores and restaurants along the way all are boarded and taped. Across the street from me a store's sign reads C YA ON THE DRY SIDE.
I'm unpacking and packing at the same time. Washing a load, drying it, and returning it to the suitcase. Thinking how convenient a luxury to turn a knob and have water flow freely, and even at the temperature I select.
I walk through my house and wonder if these walls will be here Saturday afternoon. I feel sure they will, but the thought snags me that people in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi thought the same thing a couple weeks ago. Confidence can be foolish so I pull things from surfaces, pull furniture to the center of the room.
Outside, I hear the helicopters overhead and the rhythmic beat of so many neighbors hammering plywood over their windows. That's been going on all morning.
And then the flipside: I call Mom to tell her I'll be over today to help her prepare her house, that I plan to ride the hurricane out with her. She tells me it will be nice to see me, that she has no plans for today or tomorrow, but she did make sure to get her hair done yesterday. I'm not sure she understands that Rita isn't an old friend coming through town for a visit.