I have a confession to make. There’s a new woman in my life. She is someone I met when I worked the barges on the
I recognized her right away. She is older than ever, and she looks it. The cracks run deep through her foundation but she doesn’t seem to care. She’s shabby and worn, though that’s the essence of her charm. Her laugh is big and easy. Her embrace is sloppy and cloying. But I don’t care. She has a staying power that will keep a man up all night long.
Had I spent just a little more time with her all those years ago, without doubt my life would have traveled a different arc. I would have worn different robes, shot through with searing reds, voodoo greens, and shimmering gold. I could have been a dandy peacock. I could have been a fire-blooded mercenary. I would have been a different man.
If I’m going on too long, blame it on the clatter of desire. If I am willing to throw away everything I once cherished and give myself wholly to these new charms, blame it on the hot swoon of love. For I am now a man with two mistresses, master of neither, slave to both.
My new love, of course, is
Three years after the flood, this lowland is a mixed bag of abandonment and neglect that surround pockets that glimmer with foolhardy hope. This is the truth of
Of course, the truth of
… and rambling old houses that snooze in wild gardens.
It is full-buffet steamboats and tuneless calliope ballads…
… and cranky old street cars named
It is a bell hop working the swing shift and dreaming of the great escape. It is desire on a signpost.
It is a blue dog with sad yellow eyes.
It is the sight of a beautiful girl within the blur of a street party.
But most of all,
It is the zoom of love’s first bite.
It is the burn that seeps through your bones until it becomes a part of you, until, somehow you are filled to overflowing with peace. And as you give yourself over to this dangerous love—helplessly, willingly—you will undoubtedly concoct dreams designed to keep you as close as possible to this feeling forever.
And maybe, if you’re like me (after a few drinks, perhaps), you might tell your travel companion that it’s time to stop the never-ending road trip. That it’s time to sell the house back in
But then came the clarity of morning’s light, and in that light I took leave of New Orleans, just as I did those twenty some years ago. But the love I feel for her lingers on, deepening as its texture and composition changes with the passing years. And in the bus, heading into the morning sun, I see that I have no need for different robes; I see that the love I feel toward this old mistress is, in truth, the love I feel for my best friend, my partner, my mistress, my everything.