What else can I say about Nawlins that hasn’t already been metaphorized by every scribe who’s walked on cobblestone streets that were once bathed in blood but now bathed in frat-boy urine? Walk into a jazz club and literally drink in everything around you. There air is misty, the bathrooms are filthy, the beignets are fluffy, the crawfish etouffee is… I don’t know. The lines are long.
Nawlins is Nawlins, and the people there know it and there is money to be made off of that, so where is my damn ghost? All of those desperate photographs aimed towards street lamps and windows of old shotgun houses, and: nothing. No unexplainable shadows nor ambiguous light globules that I could use to torment my friends with.
I can’t leave town without seeing a tarot card reader and all of the scary old ladies are taken so I see this chick who looks like she enrolled at Ohio State University in 2006, flashed her boobs during Mardi Gras on her Spring Break of 2007, called her parents from a pay phone to tell them she wasn’t coming home one rainy night in 2008, overdrafted on her checking account but still continued using her debit card to Buy! More! Shots! because of her bank’s generous $500 Overdraft Protection Plan in 2009, waitressed at Bennigan’s in 2010 and was thrilled when her checking balance made it back to zero, deleted her Facebook account in 2011 with someone else’s smartphone while loitering in a hotel lobby, took an intensive 6-week tarot card-reading “boot camp” online course in 2012, and then reinvented herself as Madame Matilda (née Cheryl Elaine Smith) in 2013 #proudparents. This is the girl that is telling me about my future, and what she tells me is this year is going to be so-so for romance, and so-so for money. I don’t reveal to her I’m getting married over the summer and just got a nice raise, and before I can sneak a side glance at Baby she grabs my hands firmly and tells me that I just need to believe in myself and that for five bucks more she can guarantee good things will happen to me.
I roll my eyes and hand her the twenty bucks that this session is supposed to be worth, but after seeing a five in my wallet she insists that the session is worth twenty-five. I throw it at her in disgust and walk away and two months later I take another couples trip, this time to San Juan. It’s a good time. We eat their beans and rice, drink their mojitos. The cobblestone streets there are blue, and instead of jazz music there’s salsa.
I break even at the casino, sip booze out of a coconut, then kayak in complete darkness through a river until our leader takes us to a bay, where the plankton glow an eerie blue-green color whenever you splash the water. I think about what will happen if I drink this water. Later I’m walking along a beach, with my friends and Baby. We’re cracking jokes, telling stories. My stomach is full of paella and in one hand is a cigar and in the other is Baby’s hand. The stars are everywhere and so is the moon. I wrap my arm around Baby’s shoulder, kiss her on the cheek. I am wondering when my luck will run out.
Baby looks at me, says, What.
I want to smile and reply, “Just standing here with you and wondering when my luck will run out, that’s all,” but instead I tell her I’m really pissed because I forgot to set my fantasy basketball lineup for tonight’s games. She shakes her head, and I shrug. It’s fine. She knows.
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