Past Expiration Date

I awake on the floor.

It is almost 2PM. I have dim recollections of most everyone I care about wishing me farewell before they head out to a brave new world, and TG giving me instructions pertaining to what will likely be my final exit from his house tomorrow morning: cut the breaker to the water heater, turn the AC to off, etc. But then again, that was so long ago, to my mind, that the woolly mammoth may as well have been walking the earth still.

I fart around. I eat a sandwich out of what was left in the fridge. I read a weeks-old newspaper. I eventually shower.

I ignore the quiet.

For a few hours, I have things to do. I pick up what’s left of TG‘s things and put them in his now-mostly-empty closet. It’s not nearly enough to fill it. I clean everything from the top down. I feel like an undertaker, embalming the dead. I erase memories with a whoosh; the dust-silhouettes outlining where the furniture used to be are no more. Wherever I go, I turn a home into a house.

I get the fuck out of there at around 8, when my work is done. There is, very simply, nothing to do at all at the house.

I decide, suddenly, to go to the Quarter.

I call a couple of folk that I know are still in town. Busy signal, no answer, phone acting like an ass, can’t make it. Its probably for the best – I’ve never liked public ceremony, preferring things like this on a more personal level. I miss my exit, because I don’t really know which one I should take. I make a U-Turn in Lakeview and marvel at the size of the trash heap as seen by my high beams. I miss my turn, somewhere, and cross the bridge back to the Westbank on accident, but I don’t mind. I cross it again, and get goddamn directions this time… because I will mind if i do this shit twice.

For the first time in my entire life, there is most perfect parking spot ever to exist, right there on the street. St. Louis and Chartres. On the corner. Its a geographical anomaly: two blocks away from Jackson Square, two blocks away from Bourbon, (two blocks away from ever’whar!). I’m a little sad, because I’m used to walking from Canal Place’s paid parking lot… but since I’m short of time for a long kiss goodbye, I take what I can get. I pass exactly three people walking to Bourbon. I memorize what corner this is, because I may be drunk later.

It is so quiet I can actually make out the lyrics to every song wafting out of every bar. There is just about nobody here. I turn right, instinctually, expecting to be swept up in the familiar foot traffic and catcalls and smell of pee… but that doesn’t happen. I am greeted to the Quarter as I’ve never seen it before: Empty. There is no foot traffic. There isn’t really traffic of any kind. Marin’s Fourth street on a Sunday morning is about a hundred times more populated than this. There are cops and army guys at every corner, and I know they must either feel like they are totally wasting their time or getting off easy, because they are easily 1/3rd of everyone who’s on Bourbon tonight. I could walk in the middle of the street like I owned the place and never hope to bump into anyone.

I do just that, only I do it very slowly. The ghosts of twenty-eight Mardi Gras weigh me down and make me nostalgic.

I wonder if that cop who kicked me off of this street even works in New Orleans any more. I wonder if he’s still alive.

I stop in practically everywhere I’ve ever been, and some places I haven’t. I have a couple of beers at Temptations, and have my pick of the seating and the women. I listen to a song at Krazy Korner. I get a slice of pizza from… someplace, and take it with me while I walk. I get another when I’m done with that one. (This takes no time, as there is absolutely no waiting for anything.) I wash it all down with a ginormous hurricane from one of those vendors who create their stores by hanging a tarp in the alley between buildings.

Cafe Du Monde is open… or, at least, the lights are on. The same with the House of Voodoo. The same with a lot of places.

Jackson square looks, for the first time, like any other courtyard after hours: dark, and rather leafy. It’s not closed off or barricaded or anything, but I’m the only guy there. The Riverwalk is the same way – just me, and the moon, the River, and the occasional clop of horse feet in the distance.

I’ve always wanted the quarter to have less people in it, but I really am not sure if I’m enjoying this or not.

On the way home, I don’t listen to the radio. I keep the windows open. I smell the air and hear the cries of the heart of NOLA and enter the interstate in complete darkness. I unlock the back door of what used to be TG’s home and get undressed, feeling like I know what all abandoned toys in the attic must know.

I’m pretty sure the Quarter knows what I’m talking about.

I go to sleep on the floor.

1 Comment

  1. Kris Said:

    on November 15, 2005 at 2:22 pm

    *hug* I feel for you, sweetie. When we came down to pack I could hardly believe what I saw.
    And by the way, thanks.
    Thanks for letting me know what you see and how you feel. I’m starved for information about what’s going on down there, and not the news that ends up on TV every night – what’s really going on.
    Thanks to everybody else who posted what they are going through in N.O. It hurts, but at the same time, I’d go crazy if I didn’t know.

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