Gomez didn’t come to work. No one was at the house.
The one I finally found.
I told Big John–the name he preferred–tonight
would be another night.
I fully expected Monsieur Verdoux to be wall-screened.
Big John took me to meet Juan and Bettina,
the red head on the bed
the night before, being systematically raped
by all the wolves in the pack I was invited to join
This guy named Juan said, Call me John, and Bettina
It must’ve been Big John introducing me as J. C. made me think
you don’t simplify things without complicating everything. Or so I remember now. I would have to come back to that one after this was over, I promised my cerebellum.
We were on
Tchoupitoulas Street, it seemed inevitable somehow, I was always finding Tchoupitoulas on the sign outside wherever I was inside. I even went out and looked at the water when I wasn’t working.
Johnny, he said, not to confuse me with Big John . . . Betty said she was born Elizabeth, being a gringa, as Johnny said he was a breed. I said I was born in the Blue Ridge, I had no excuse. I said nothing about my father’s
African blood. We passed a black man on the street and he was drunk enough to say hello, and Big John quipped, They used to hang niggers from lamp posts for less . . . I knew the man was far enough up the street to miss it, and I said nothing as a way of saying nothing. In fact, I kept it up. The three of them were going to walk the city, at least where they thought the Mexican might be. They didn’t call him Gomez, which vindicated my silence as I bid them adieu.
I went into an all-but-empty bar where the bartender helped me drink a bottle of Old Grandad. Rocky was his name. When the conversation moved to New Orleans food, he asked if I’d eaten at Kolb’s off Canal. Great Wiener schnitzel, Rocky said, adding, a friend of mine is head waiter there. Ask for Big John.
When the Grandad was gone, I left to find a place to stay. I was wandering around in the dark now. There was a neon sign beckoning me: HOTEL HOTEL. I went in and got a room for the night. Then I decided to find out if Gomez’s house was open tonight. Maybe the blonde would be watching Chaplin again tonight. Maybe Gomez would be there, I had The Saloon’s number, I could find Kolb’s if I could find The Book.
The desk clerk said, Leaving already? No luggage? Don’t you want to see the room? I said, No need, you got dinero, amigo, don’t worry, I have more.
Outside the street seemed unearthly quiet.
(2 November 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander