The last time I visited my mother we drove down West End Blvd where he used to live with his grandmother in a big Victorian home. The house had been destroyed in Katrina and a new, smaller bungalow stood in its place. I remembered the nights I'd throw pebbles at his window on the third floor for him to come out--we didn't want to wake his grandmother. No more third story now. A few blocks down on the same street, another house I'd lived in myself a few years later during my twenties, also destroyed, gone.
For some reason this morning I was thinking about Chip and googled him, wondering what he was doing after all these years. The only thing I could find was a post from his father September 15, 2005 saying that he was missing after Katrina. Nothing else after that. There was no email address or other contact information.
I remember him as a strong, darkly handsome guy with lots of spirit who took on ambitious projects: rebuilding engines, working in the hot hot Louisiana sun on roofs with his uncle. He helped me pick out my first car, a used Triumph, and when it threw a rod a week later he towed it to his grandmother's house, worked for months to save the money I'd spent to buy it, and finally gave it to me, telling me he'd found a buyer for it. It was much later that I got it out of him that the money was actually his.
He was quiet and somehow not of this world despite his work with the physical world. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy, but hated the authoritarianism of it, and left after a year. He kept a photo of me in his hat, he said, but the seniors would ask to look at the photo and would say things like you think she's waiting for you? Ha! Chip was the first man I ever loved, the first man I ever slept with, the first I ever allowed to touch me. It is disturbing to think he might have died in Katrina.
I hope someone has found him.