I stayed long enough to finish the bottle, together. We’d both slept with our clothes on. (The last woman I loved back home refused to take hers off the last night we slept together, on top of my bed. It was our last time because after loving her as completely as I was capable of loving anyone, I started taking her for granted and leaving her too much alone and after a long while she left and a year later came back to say goodbye because I was leaving, even telling me she might follow, but never did, and I’m glad now, she found a much better man, one who would do anything for her, and did . . . )
She drove me to Ruby’s place and kissed me goodbye, peck on the cheek, then even more briefly on the lips. I thanked her for rescuing me from last night’s horror. She didn’t know Gomez did things like that, she said. Watch him, I warned her. She laughed at that. She just came for the outdoor movies, she quipped. I never did get her name and she never asked mine. I liked that, J. C. wasn’t much to be.
Ruby told me she went out with the horn man and Delia, of course, with the drummer. Ruby said she liked him a lot and planned to see him again. Okay, I said, I’ll find another place. She said, Now, don’t be difficult, baby . . . but she didn't disagree. Then I went out and had a drink in a bar down the wharf from where we’d been last night. I don’t mind telling you I was hoping I’d see the woman who stood by the door . . .
I got a little more drunk instead. I went back to St. Louis Cathedral and told the priest that I wasn’t Catholic but then I wasn’t anything, and explained where I’d come from and what church was like there. He listened and smiled and said, Drop by again, I always try to be here when no one needs me elsewhere. Then he said, Wait a minute, and left a moment returning with a sheaf of blank paper and a pen.
If you think I wrote anything that day, I wrote my name again at the top of the page, then another letter to my mother saying again what I’d said the night before and couldn’t find now, but when I was finished I damn sure didn’t call it writing. Maybe I should just put my ambition aside and either make money on the wharf or go back to the mountains, where I had always belonged.
I wandered around a good while before reaching the Vieux Carre.
I ate a meal in the Absinthe House. I went across the street and sat down in an open-air bar called The Saloon.
The year was 1965, the summer of . . .
(30 October 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander