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Update: More from Candice here.

I just bought a ’90s era truck and it needs a few things so I ventured out to “Pull-a-Part” out by Boomtown Casino and the Harvey Canal a little while back to get a tailgate assembly, a door cable and whatever else I could find on the trucks out there that I didn’t have on mine.

Expecting to have a frustrating day (because even though my dad is an amazing mechanic and restorer of cars, the traits he tried to instill never cured in my constitution), I found myself strangely calmed by the place, I think perhaps by the ordered chaos. The cars, in various states of decrepitude, were also very neatly arranged in rows and as much as possible were grouped by makes and models. This is a large expanse. It’s also very quiet. Space, order, repetition – very meditative.

Within the cars and trucks, there were two cultures present. The first was of visitors to the yard and the results of what they scavenged off of the vehicles since some wreck or costly repair had rendered it useless. Many of them all had the same part missing. A knob or a panel that had some genetic defect and often needed to be replaced. My tailgate mechanism was one of these, most of the truck there didn’t have them or had ones with the same failures as mine. Many people would stack parts removed from the motor or transmission inside the car so if someone came looking for a part they removed to get to another part, the work would already be done for them. Some pieces of the interior or dashboard items were simply ripped off by a fella who didn’t bring the right tool. Disemboweled dashboards showed hanging wires and connectors. Split and torn upholstery gathered mold. This was all post-mortum.

Deeper into the wrecks there were relics of the last owner. Matchbooks from Marrero nightclubs, crayons, Mardi Gras beads. Bumper stickers (perhaps the most pure and succinct indicators of who we are in this modern world) still adorned the rear windows of many. There were also signs of how well the cars were maintained in their “life.” Some were still cluttered with debris in the crevices of their interiors while others were still showing signs of detailing in spite of having missing doors or no windshield.

I actually didn’t have the tool I needed that day. To get the door cable off, I needed a Phillips screwdriver that was just slightly larger than the one I had. I tried to get the screws loose on one truck and I managed to get the forst two loose but the last one wouldn’t budge. So I moved on to the next one. Same thing. Same two loose in the same spot. Same one wouldn’t budge. Ditto for the next truck. I finally cracked the code by finding a truck that had for some reason already had the screws missing.

Next to one truck I was working on was a Mustang (they had all the Fords in one corner). During the time I was there, three different people came and pried a part off it. The last guy told me it was the only junked one of that make and model in the area. He also lamented that, “They no leave me nothing!”

As I left, I thought this tranquility was absurd. People most likely died in some of these cars and trucks. But then, a lot of things probably happened in these rides. People were conceived in them. But regardless of what used to happen in them, now it’s all gone. I felt like I was in the past peering into the future but I was actually in the future looking back into the past. I can say with certainty that most of these remains at some point in the last generation, brought someone a great sense of exuberance and accomplishment. Perhaps a few times. Then a natural decay began to form or a terrible accident and the car lies out here like a carcass.

I called my dad to tell him about how the truck was going and mentioned the trip to the junkyard and he said, “neat out there isn’t it?” He said one time he was at one and a storm came up on him so he got inside a truck and just sat there smoking cigarettes until it passed.

It’s Sunday morning and Mahalia Jackson is humming through the Winamp. Rain is trickling through the busted up gutters and we can barely hear the calliope from across the river behind hallelujahs and upper rooms. In a moment, I will step on to the porch, drink some milky coffee and consider how to muster up a poker game in the midst of this soft Sunday.

Today was the day.

The day when people talk to total strangers about the humidity just for the sake of empathy.

Walking into Walgreens, a black man man mutters “shit” and a white man concurs, “nasty out here.”

The steamy cottons and rayon stick to spongy skin and upper lips are porous.

The windows are covered in condensation; Summer is upon us and it is heavy. We all knew it was coming but, until that first gross, disgustingly wet, hot day nobody was convinced. Like broken horses, nobody doubts it now,

Cars and houses carry on with no climate control and there are so many other things to spend money on.

The rain threatened but never showed up today. Couldn’t it just have soaked everything instead of lingering around?

The clouds were huge purple sponges.

The days are hot and the killers are out there.

And now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.

There is a sublime sense of gratification in the catch. It feels like a feat. A crucial play in a big game.

You’ve gotten some small purple, green and golds and even some dice but that something special has eluded you.

You scan the float and find the right reveler. Not the one plundering their bag looking for stuffed bears. Not the one who just tossed a handful of cups to the tourists. You find one who has a dozen or so big pink ones in his hand and he’s dropping back to pass.

“Those will be the envy of everyone I see tonight,” you say to yourself.

You say what you can to get him to look your way. Any number of clever statements may or may not work. Or you simply scream your lungs out. You being a man with no cute little kids or a well-endowed girlfriend, the odds are against you. The natural selection of the Krewe does not favor the single thirty-something man.

But he does see you and you motion that you want them, and hope that there aren’t any nubile ladies around. Or old women that look like his me-maw. Or supple teen-agers that resemble his first. But if you are smart, you will have brought your own comely female companion. Or at least posted up near one for the benefit of splash beads.

Then he gives them a throw and you set your sights on the prize. You aren’t his target, but you make the snap judgment that, with enough athletics, maybe you can intercept them. You don’t take your eyes off the bundle of beads as they seem to be sailing over your head. With your foot on the barricade, you leap up and back with five fingers spread out like a web. You bump the woman behind you and throw her slightly off balance. In the second she takes to adjust, you reach the apex of your leap. The nucleus of the throw descends and hits your palm like a bullseye, letting out a unique and familiar sound of victory. The tentacles wrap around your hand, which you bring forward and down as the others try to snatch a string or two from your grasp. But they fail and you hear her behind you, muttering something about how they weren’t meant for you.

You look back with a smug smile and are turning your attention back to the parade when a long chain of inch-wide pearls smacks you in the forehead and fattens your lip.

A small price to pay for the perfect catch.

You place the beads around your neck and await the next float.

There is a time when empathy becomes too much. When, for one’s on good, they can’t take on any more of their friend’s and neighbor’s subtle suffering. Sometime, you have to stop feeling it all.

The bodies were everywhere. And not only during the storm. Even before. In a city like this, the bodies just pile up. Sure, the removal service comes and hauls them away. Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead. But they don’t haul away their memory. This one flipped her minivan here and that one was shot in the head there. Reports are printed in black and white 100,000 times and read by thousands and felt; mired in the goo of collective conciousness. Then the thousands drive or walk past the spot and think to themselves, “this is where it happened.” Maybe they mention it to their out of town guests or maybe, out of respect for the city or perhaps for their visitor’s nice vacation, they don’t mention it anywhere but in their head. And it stays there.

And now, in the grip of this “mental health crisis,” those with empathy are the ones ailing. Those who are taking it all inward. Empathy is the killer that drives a woman out into the lake or a man off the side of a bridge. Those that replay the suffering over and over again are psycho-trauma victims. They may not think so but they are. A mind has many ways to react to the horrors but none of them are good. Perhaps they will emerge as hypertension, cancer or panic attacks. That’s our little way of coping with it. All the insanity and ruinous behavior. The constant threats from criminals, pollution or high water.

The forces will align against us in the name of honest debate but it’s really a display of their own arrogance. They think a lack of empathy makes them strong. Perhaps it does but it also makes them ignorant. The time will come when no one wants to help them either.

For a person with empathy, for a humane human, dessertion is not an option.