We were wondering how to draw a map from the rumors of her whereabouts.
We were too young, in fact barely alive, not even walking well, sullen, full of despair.
What had happened? Delia left one day before her mother knew it. Then she followed.
She was heading for Memphis, like the song informs us was where what happened
happened. I do not write songs, I am what you call laborious.
I can’t tell you how she got there, but she did. Remember, she arrived long ago, long before Elvis. There was a monument to W. C. Handy instead. I thought it was in St. Louis.
Her mother was with me. Ruby wanted to get a room in a hotel and get up fresh tomorrow morning and look for her.
We did. We broke our fast. We slept well. We rose at first light.
It was a long way I was glad she had gone. In our day it took a long time to get here from there. Now you can fly, but not like a bird. There is no such freedom in our provinces.
Too tired to make love, the fan seemed to turn the ceiling.
The phone rang, Ruby answered, cupped one hand over the mouthpiece and whispered, thrilled: “It’s her!”
She told her mother she planned to keep going. We could follow if we wished, but don’t expect her to take time to show us New Orleans.
Ruby was delighted to hear we would be following her as far as New Orleans, her very own childhood dream city.
As for the night before, Ruby said, If we don’t find her, I’ll leave a note at the desk to have them call me if she checks in . . .
I wanted nothing so much as the go to Audubon Park. All these birds were there, you see.
First, there were the towns: Faulkner’s, Welty’s. In Vicksburg I remembered Reynolds was born here. I got it wrong somewhere, said Natchez: I guess I wanted to say Natchez. In
Memphis I went to the public library and found what they had to say about Natchez, more than I could find on Vicksburg, though all the book s were about the war and some of the people found there . . .
In New Orleans the rains were coming. That was before umbrellas were invented, I’m told.
(22 October 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander