Read More From WHAT REMAINED OF KATRINA: A NOVEL OF NEW ORLEANS
The water danced into your room, started to sweep things along with it. Things on the floor. Pieces of furniture. Chairs. Fishing poles. A desk flipped over. It was a struggle to breathe in the cloying heat. The wind howled and screamed. The house shook. Looking out the lone window, you saw a house collapse. You heard someone’s dog wail. Deep and lonely. Frightened to death. You heard screams. Saw people swept up in the water.
Somewhere close by, a transformer blew up.
Outside, something else exploded and the noise was much closer, much louder. You smelled smoke and gas. “I don’t want to die here. I won’t die here,” you sobbed.
Many people with Raynaud’s are able to find relief by simply adjusting their lifestyle. For example:
Protect yourself from the cold and the wet.
Avoid excessive emotional stress.
Do not use vibrating, sharp tools.
You closed your eyes briefly. Opened them. Saw fire now, greedy bright orange flames licking the house next door, jumping and popping, and then you realized it wasn’t the house next door that was burning but the house you were trapped in. You heard glass breaking, splintering, wood groaning and snapping.
Angry. With you.
What a doctor might do for Raynaud’s:
For more severe cases that require medication, your doctor might prescribe drugs that keep your blood vessels from narrowing and help them dilate, such as nifedipine, diltiazem, or nitroglycerin. Some of these medications may have side effects that you should discuss with your doctor before taking.
A doctor might also advise non-medication treatment:
Biofeedback has been demonstrated to be safe and effective for some individuals. This is a technique designed to help a person gain control over involuntary body functions, such as skin temperature, heart rate, or blood pressure.
In rare instances, a sympathectomy may be performed. This operation cuts the nerves that may also be affecting the blood vessels to the fingers. This procedure is usually not necessary and may only work for a short period of time. But this is what a doctor did for you, queef cake.
The water was getting higher. Like a lover, swirling darkly around your knees, inching up your thighs, wet and damp and dark, without boundaries. “Lou!” you yelled. “Lou!” There was no answer now.
All you needed to do was find a way to cut off your own hand, somehow stop the bleeding, save Lou, get on the roof, get rescued, and get treated so infection didn’t set in. You started to laugh again. Tried not to think of that movie you watched on cable, where Hannibal Lector whacked off his own hand after Clarice, the FBI agent, handcuffed herself to him.
Maybe God gave you Raynaud’s because he knew this moment would come, and maybe, you thought, cutting your own hand off wouldn’t hurt as much because the nerves had already been damaged. Plus, your wrist had been broken before. This is what you told yourself in that drowned, drenched moment.
“Did Ray break it?” you heard Lou ask but you knew it wasn’t really Lou talking. “Lou! Lou!” Still no answer.
“Yeah,” you said to Lou, remembering how the fake pearls at your wrist broke apart too, snapped when Ray snapped the bones in your wrist, the little white globes rolling and trotting across the floor, flashing like little sundials in the afternoon light, your wrist hanging limp, your heart in bone-shock.
Your brother gave you those when you were twelve and he was ten. You don’t know where your brother is now. You haven’t known for a long time. You never felt so sad. “Were you ever happy with him? Even for ten minutes?” you think you heard Lou ask.
“No, Lou, I wasn’t,” you sob out loud. But nobody could hear you anymore. And then like magic, although you didn’t believe in that anymore, a wooden toolbox was lifted up by thick rolling palms of water and floated right in front of you, practically handed to you. It must’ve been behind the desk. You grabbed it, got it open.
There was some fishing stuff in it. A knife inside. A pocketknife. Pretty sharp, but it wouldn’t cut through metal. You tried to cut the handcuff off. No dice. Much easier to cut off an ear.
The water was at your thick waist now. The fire was closer too, hotter. Your skin started to drip off your arm like melting plastic.
You did this before. Piece of cake. Only that time it was your ear you cut off.
“How much do you want to live?” you yelled, not sure if you were shouting for Lou or for yourself. You swallowed hard. “This is going to hurt like hell but I can survive it.”
You stared at the groove on your hand where it joined your wrist. You knew about the tender gap between the bones. A sharp knife could cut through it. You flexed your wrist in preparation for what you knew you had to do.
In case you’re wondering, a sympathectomy is a surgical procedure that destroys nerves in the sympathetic nervous system. The procedure is done to increase blood flow and decrease long-term pain in certain diseases that cause narrowed blood vessels. It can also be used to decrease excessive sweating. This surgical procedure cuts or destroys the sympathetic ganglia, collections of nerve cell bodies in clusters along the thoracic or lumbar spinal cord.
Missing a hand now, a hand once afflicted with Raynaud’s and once sympathectomized, if there is such a word, you pushed off into the cold water, made your way clumsily toward the hall, toward the room Lou was in, holding your throbbing, screaming stump.
You didn’t see the sudden swell of water until it was too late and it knocked you under. You swallowed a bunch of it, tumbled around, lost your bearings, scraped your face against carpet and the sharp corners of floor molding.
Your lungs felt like they would burst when you hit your head against a wall. Gulp-choking on the dark Mississippi, dark, only getting darker, seeing a light, the window, swimming toward it. Instinctively you pushed both hands against a wall and the explosion of pain from your freshly severed stump felt like knives all over your body. You pushed your head up, up, up, found a tiny corner of air to breathe, finally, to suck in, damp, dirty, swirling air, and there, pinned against a wall with a picture of Jesus on it rocking and staring down at you, you, the degenerate, you, lame bones, you, who tried to turn, tried to head back for Lou, but it was no use. You couldn’t fight a fat tongue of river determined on taking all your breath, licking you all over, swishing you around in its mouth. It felt like you were in a darkened theater, up on stage, tangled in the long, heavy hanging velvet drapes that opened and closed between acts.
It seemed like it took you a long time, but you finally reached the nearest window and clawed your way out, coughing and sputtering and choking. Jesus watched you the entire way.