I’ve had Graceland stuck in my head since Memphis. Sigh and I drove down from Niles, Mich. to visit New Orleans, something like 15 hours in the car together. We stopped in Memphis for some barbeque, and I set the iPod to Paul Simon.
She comes back to tell me she’s gone.
As if I didn’t know that!
As if I didn’t know my own bed!
As if I’d never noticed the way she brushed her hair from her forehead.
We pulled into New Orleans bickering like a married couple, cruising down St. Claude in dark silence. The owner of the couch I am sleeping on lives in Bywater, which Sigh described as the part of town the hipsters move to once their parents remove funding. Rat, our host, pulls up Google maps and says, “The restaurants all look like abandoned hellholes, but they’re open.”
The next morning, we fight our way through weeds and missing sidewalk toward The Joint, a barbeque place with the tagline: “Always smokin’.” Most signs around here are playful, punny. Houses are square with french windows along the front, one of which makes do as a door. They are majestic and dilapidated. The whole place is rundown as shit.
Losing love is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you’re blown apart
Everybody feels the wind blow
On the way back from the bar I remember that I left a tab open. I hike back to retrieve my credit card; Sigh and Rat abandon me as punishment for my drunken folly. In the chill night air, I sling my laptop bag higher on my shoulder and lope forward. A white guy in a beanie rides a bike past me. I feel beer and gator sausage in my belly. I remember New Year’s. I spent it in Chicago with a group of pretty girls I barely knew. I drank too many whiskey gingers and threw up in the car on the way home at 3 a.m. They were sweethearts about it. Instead of scolding, they gave me a bed to sleep in and chocolate chip pancakes in the morning. They put a bowl near my head overnight. They hung my coat on the railing outside, and I scraped the vomit off the sleeve with my nails in the utility sink the next morning. Impressively, none of them demanded to know what was wrong. I probably wouldn’t have told them anyway. Some secrets can’t be shared, even with strangers, no matter how blatantly you’re drowning.
Hearts, like cities, can’t hide the damage of a hurricane.