it was a BYOB restaurant. i brought champagne. we ate. and sipped. and laughed a LOT. at one point 'it' came up and she looked me in the eye and said something to the effect of, 'it's been almost 20 years since my father passed away and it still hits me. and i still cry unexpected tears sometimes, and sometimes i'm mad at the universe. i still grieve.'
and i let out a bit more of that breath i always forget i am holding. forget until i am reminded.
which brings me to what i wrote on the plane about how i felt about being in new orleans. how i was reminded to let out that breath, and breathed just a bit easier than i have in a long time:
when i was in new orleans i had a sense of everything being just as it should be. i couldn’t name it. i didn’t talk about it. but i just felt, right. after so long feeling a bit adrift, un-tethered by death and loss. i felt like how i felt and there wasn’t a need for qualifications "well, it's *only* been 6 months..." "well, it was so hard at the end..." "well, i *am* so far away from my family..."
i loved the way people are broken in the south. like they are everywhere else. only in the south it somehow seems okay. okay to be broken for a time. it seems like in the south they give you however long it takes. because we all make ourselves whole in the way we know how. or the way that gets us by until we learn how. we really just need as long as it takes. that's all. and i felt like i could have all the time in the world there. i don't know how i know this from being there just 3 days, but i felt it. i did know it. deep down.
i loved the way it was okay to drink too much and to laugh too loudly in the south. it’s okay to talk to strangers. the fully clothed ones at least. the ones still able to stand on their own and don't have to be held up by a pole or a bar or a friend. in the south it's okay to stay up past your bedtime. it’s okay and even encouraged to engage in debauchery. and how sometimes that’s just what a soul needs. at least some souls. while i couldn't make a life of that, it made all the difference at the time.
in the south i was reminded that moments come and you embrace them. and let myself be okay with the fact that the only thing i’ve written about since my father died is my father. dying. that it’s amazing that i am as whole and as sane as i am to begin with so fuck'em if they don’t get the joke. i do. the south reminded me that that was enough. me getting the joke. in the south i got the joke. and wrote another poem about my father.
i loved being in a place that knows its death and despair and can still throw a parade. to know tragedy and still be able to take simple pleasure in sitting with a cold drink, enjoying the sticky warmth of a sleepy southern sun. i learned that in the south it’s really truly okay to grieve, to STILL GRIEVE even if it makes others uncomfortable. again, i don't know how i know this from 3 days, but i felt it. i did know it. deep down.
without a single conversation on the subject that i can't stop writing about, that i still cry about, i felt understood in the south. i made no apologies, and nobody asked me to.
so that's a rough and unedited written on the back of a boarding pass on a half night of beer soaked sleep synopsis of me in new orleans. and it seems strange to be so taken by a place i was only in for 3 days. but that's just how it happened. like love at first sight. you just know. without any reason or logic or comprehension. and you can't explain it. you just know.
and the only way i can attempt to explain it (because that's just how i do) is to recount an interaction i had with a shouldn't be as gorgeous as he is lad named spencer. he was one of the waiters at the fantastic commander's palace where along with two of the dearest to me people in the world the three of us celebrated turning 40 this year. there were balloons at the table provided by the restaurant and at the end of the meal spencer gestured to them and asked
"would you like to take these with you?"
i didn't even think about it. uncharacteristically.
"you know, i think i will."
he untied them from the table and made a loop, knotted it, and slipped them over my wrist.
"normally i would never do this. just walk around in public with balloons. in any other town, i would NEVER do this."
he looked at me for a minute.
" 'in any other town...' well, that right there is new orleans, ma'am. in a nutshell. you got it."
yes, i believe i did. get it.