5th March 2022
The flood waters retreated before I even knew anything had happened but my brain has been flooded ever since. It's Saturday morning. It's six days since 21 cms of water went through my house. The chip board and fabric soaked up the toxic soup of animal remains, fertiliser, human waste and several trillion litres of rain and sea water. My furniture is all fat at the bottom. My stumps on my house have done a little dance. The floor boards are crinkled like an old five pound note recovered from the wash.
The thing that hasn't retreated are the thoughts of what to do next. I'm never at peace. I'm always trying to prepare myself for the next challenge. Before we left for our 7 day trip to a Pacific island, (my first holiday in three years) Home was where I was safe. Where I could close the door and sit on my couch and be safe. It was beautiful. My lovely wife has a designers eye. Each piece of furniture was tastefully selected. The place integrated. Strangers popping by to pick up something sold on ebay couldn't stop themselves from complimenting. It was nine years of hard work. In March we'll have enough saved to play it off and never pay the bank anymore interest again. We almost owned our perfect home outright. And now we own a swollen mess that's filled with silt and shit.
I've tried to maintain an upbeat attitude. We both took our weddings rings on our trip. We decided at the last moment to park in airport parking. (It's only $15 more than an Uber, Let's treat ourselves.) My wife is safe. I'm safe. We've had many people offer us compassion and assistance. What I don't have, is my couch. My place where I leave my keys. My teapot. These are all things that can be salvaged or replaced. But that's takes time.
I'm also quite alert to the fact that out there someone is trying to reassure themselves that they are safe from the mistake that the people in my neighbourhood made. They'll do so by saying they bought on a hill for a reason. That only a fool would buy on a flood plain. I try not to worry what other people think but for some reason this lurks in my head like a fox. We knew that flooding was something to consider when buying property. We checked the flood map. Our property was above the greatest predicted danger level. We talked to long time residents. 50 years they'd lived there. The creek would occasionally put pools in the bottom of the back yard. We knew that we were 155cms above the very highest of high tides. We checked predictions of sea level rise. We were still well clear for 50 years.
Then in 2016 there was a 1 in 100 year downpour. It was the second since 2011. It flooded the street and some of the lower lying houses. We were still safe by a substantial amount but the flood map changed and put us at a very very small chance of total yard flooding. But we are the highest natural point in the entire neighbourhood. If we go under then everyone goes under. (unless their house is up on stilts)
Monday lunchtime, my lovely wife checked facebook, and all hell had broken loose. They're calling it a 1 in 1000 year flood. So many places everywhere went underwater. We could barely do anything from where we were. We didn't have enough Internet to do much research and we couldn't do anything with the research from where we were. There was one person in Brisbane who had a house key but without knowledge from the insurers all we could do was have them air out the place so it didn't become a terrarium.
Lost of people want to help, but we need to meticulously document every single object we have in the house and whether or not it was definitely damaged, possibly damaged or salvageable. I didn't want to move again. Now I have to find boxes. I didn't want to renovate. I grew up in two houses that were always being renovated. I swore I'd buy a complete house and never get stuck in that position again. Where water was coming in when it rained. Where the floor was bare concrete. And the wires hung from the wall with a warning of 'Probably don't want to touch that'. Where doors opened onto nowhere and railings were made of lashed together steel. I swore I'd never live like that again.
Then the sky came down and fucked everything up. Now I'm living in a friend's guest room. Every day is spend in gum boots and uncomfortable n95 masks that still don't prevent the waft of mould. Every flicker in my brain is what I could have done to prevent this, or what have I done that's going to bite me in the arse. Or what have I forgotten that's waiting in a low and spongy cupboard to destroy me. I try not to be sentimental about objects. But some things are impossible to replace. My signed copy of Hitchhikers? Second shelf. Safe. My favourite painting from my grandad's house? Value $0. Irreplaceable. Damaged.
I try to draw upon my inner Marie Condo. Some things only exist for a transient amount of time. Birthday cards, paintings, computers, love letters, houses, languages, humans, planets. Everything only lasts a certain amount of time. It doesn't matter if it's flood or landslide or fire.
One day this will just be another story of tragedy in my life. And it will be so well told that no one will feel bad. It will add to my repertoire of jolly stories. (So that was the second fire *wait for shocked laughter*)
For the time being, I just wish the universe would stop taking my stuff.