Juan thinks: What am I doing, writing about Adore what I don’t know and what she only said once or twice . . . He’s been holed up in his mother’s house on St. Charles, Peggy assured him the run of the place, girls and all. He doesn’t want to do anything more here than sleep, he can go to see Adore if he needs more, and yes, he does, he has the feel of need between his legs, but then, when was it ever elsewhere, or otherwise?
I could see him from where I normally, these days, would be at The Saloon, time to raise the metal door and set up for tourists and locals alike. But not now, even though Young Jackson took a trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to see relatives working the casinos and he’s promised me he’ll split with me the cache of winnings he says, I’m sure to bring back, but I have other things to consider, Roberto, Lelli, for instance–she can’t go back to Greece now that her country’s falling apart and she wants to stay here, at least until Mardi Gras is over. She has the papers that deed over to her the Mill Valley house, which, of course, she’s never seen, Roberto having shared it the last twenty years, before moving here, with the woman of whom he came to declare, “We had nothing in common, finally.” I promised Lelli a day or so after the funeral I’d accompany her to California and help her decide what to do with the Marin County place. I’ve told her it’s a beautiful house and as near San Francisco as she would need it to be, but she knows her own mind by now, she’s a fierce though diminutive Greek with large breasts for such a little lady, and great humor the one or two times she was under me, yet she knows I know how determined she can be, for example, how she refused to be with me after she returned from Athens and found me with she who later stole my Bible and eloped returning to Honolulu, where later I looked but didn’t find either her or that revised standard version I still don’t know why she wanted to borrow, but she did, and the same night said she wanted a baby, and when I left without commitment, as usual, she called and said her old flame from Hawaii had just sold a novel, was coming to New York to sign the papers, and she had told him yes, she wanted to see him, it would only be for part of a day and she’d call when he was gone. A week later she called and wept on the phone, or almost, she was too tough to let herself go that far, and didn’t mention the Bible, only that she was now married and heading home, as she put it. No, Lelli had no pity once she knew I was sharing my bed with another woman. But that was a while back as eons go.
I go down early and Peggy, who’s always up and about, feeds me breakfast, usually bacon and eggs, orange juice and coffee, and French bread; she believes in your standard norteamericano meal, especially when it’s only for one, and particularly when I’m the one, she knows I’m not French and being part Spanish doesn’t mean I’m not into the kind of food my great uncle Ira loved, the kind of meal Adore says she had to let him teach her how to rustle up . . .
I go upstairs again and write until I begin hearing the girls in the house and usually the morning has turned into noon. I have wasted most of my time up here, though. I sought to write about her child’s body’s initiation with a man’s. But not now, in fact maybe never if something should happen between now and then, and no, he doesn’t know what . . . Adore at her age is happier with him in her bed than anyone’s ever been, Irish Cathleen included, and he could go on, but why bother? He’s a freak of culture. His culture. No wonder Ira never bothered going back to Woolwine, he knew the limitations he had lived with until leaving there, and he wanted nothing more to do with his brothers, nor did he care to try to track them down in Fort Smith, they were probably holed up in some burg in the sticks. New Orleans was good for Ira, no doubt, made a musician of him, and with his music he had a free pass into the city’s open arms.
And now it was me. I knew I had a story to tell about him too: the old American tale that never ends, black men and white men, which in this story includes the overwhelming presence of a black woman even though she’s either mulatto or octoroon, she never found out for sure . . . A black man died in Virginia and one of the white men who fled as fugitive with his three brothers left them in Memphis and one night fell in love with a black woman in New Orleans before he died, and when I met her, while Ira was still alive, though not for much longer, just long enough for me to see how a man and a woman from the master and slave cultures could love one another like any lovely body from, say, the same culture. I hate the word culture, but that’s my fault, I never found out early enough in life about that son of a wolf bitch in Nazi Germany–whoever he was, no matter what he was called–said, “When I hear the word culture I reach for my revolver,” and anyway, it doesn’t matter, my heart has room only for one love at a time, and high falutin’ cultural concerns are for other times, other places, and most likely can even wait till old age to be taken up seriously.
So here I go. I walk by the river a while, sit down and try to think where I’m going to go next with this tale I’ve lived all my life to be able to feel like I’m ready to begin, let alone take to its denouement, and I think about the people from who knows where walking by, and wonder if they know what it’s like to be from the very bloodstream that flows through the people whose only home is here, coursing like a rip tide through a body once you learn, as she did, and as she has tried to teach me, how the loas sound when they speak through you and how you feel before and after, let alone while the miracle is happening.
I go on over to her little house and get in bed with her and she loves my little thick cock and I her sweet cunt and pretty soon we’re inside one another, I in her of course, but it’s uncanny how I feel at the same time I’m thinking about the horses she’s taught me to let ride inside me as they do in her, and she feels now like she’s in me, and I say, Adore, how can this be? And she says, It’s what we wanted way back when, I just started before you, I’m older . . .
And that’s what happens between waking at Madame Peggy’s, in my mama’s brothel and leaving Adore’s . . . I’m able to get over here and do some work in The Saloon. You see, my man Roosevelt came back around the time of Roberto’s funeral and is filling in for Young Jackson now; otherwise I’d have to beat it over here and do the opening and setting up and get the working day going by myself, and thanks to the gods Roosevelt came back after leaving his son with his folks and returning to find his wife dead up on Canal, victim of the man who hired her to strip and do street jobs albeit in the back room when she wasn’t on stage. Roosevelt long ago decided he wanted to live more than get revenge, but he came back here just in case he changed his mind.
(6 October 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander