I remember the flood as the long lines at gas stations when Sandy hit, subway stations inaccessible looking like the lonely rubble of the ballroom in John Cameron’s Titanic. I never understood why he added that hour long introduction to the film that brought the audience through the sunken ship, but I understand now. How it was a remote memorial, in a way, for us all, for all the people who are lost, for all the loves we first had. A story held still. Sandy destabilized the city for one whole month, and continued to inconvenience us for years after. I remember it happened during Halloween and everyone was wandering around in halloween costumes, just trying to keep tradition, but feeling silly in the face of disaster.
Sometimes in one of our parents’ living rooms when we were in middle school, Esme and I memorized the last speech in Titanic between Jack and Rose on that carved door at the end, after the affair, after the joy. I was Jack and she was Rose. Hair frozen, grasping each other’s hands, me whispering: “You’re going to live on Rose, and you’re going to make babies…” and then I'd slip away onto the floor
We did everything together, she was my other half, she and I had the same first letter to our names so it almost sounded like we were a skip in a record, the same note, just a different time, we shared clothing, we shared jewelry, we shared rooms. We shared days together that lasted weeks. We shared coffees and candy. We shared pizza and trips all over the world. We shared swimming and we shared classes. We shared cars and schools and best friends.
The first time I heard that drowning metaphor was when we were 18 and had all moved to college. Esme moved to Rochester and I moved to the middle of Manhattan. She used to call me and tell me that she didn’t want to get up in the morning, that she cried all the time. That she didn’t feel anything, also. She used to call holidays, when she went back home, a breath of fresh air after diving back down into the water. We were so close and hurting. It might have been me who made that metaphor but it doesn’t change how perfect of a description it is. Every change I’ve ever had has felt like I was growing fins or gills very quickly and painfully, like the hulk or something. In sadness specks of algae, cups and fabric hang strangely in the atmosphere like there’s a different quality in the air. The pain is palpable and the transformation jarring, but necessary, all to adapt in a water world.