I'm driving around the Lower 9th Ward, March of 2006. It's probably about the tenth time I've been there in the past few months, because I've had this weird compulsion, since moving back, to drive around the most severely damaged neighborhoods, over and over and over again, taking non-stop pictures. I don't know why I felt the need to do it--I guess it was my way of grieving over what had happened---it made me feel better, for some reason, to wallow in the horror of it all.
I stop in front of yet another decimated house and get out of my car to walk around the property and take pictures. The front door is partially open, and, as I've done before, I walk up onto the front porch and cautiously peer into the mouldering darkness inside. The smell of death hits me immediately and I walk back to my car, thinking that a wild animal must have gone into the house and died.
I go home and tell Kenny about it and the next night, when the evening news is on, he calls me into the living room. The news reporter is standing in front of the very same house, reporting that a neighbor has discovered a body in it--yet another Katrina victim that hadn't yet been found until then, more than six months after the flood.
And I know rationally, or at least I think I do, that a human body would long since have been past the point of decay where it would've given off an odor by then, wouldn't it? It had to be a recently dead animal that I smelled. And I try not to think about the fact that in our supposedly first-world country, we could let a dead body sit in a house for more than six months before someone finally recovered the body and laid him or her to rest.