Friday, July 20, 2007

My old house

The place is an unremarkable feat of existence, leaning towards the sun setting in the west, the windows are stained in colors of the prism, a delectable texture of purple, blue, green, and gold, mardi gras colors, but not in that order. Bits of trash and gravel scatter the driveway from the neighborhood wake of dust carried by cars traveling down this busy gateway to Magazine Street. The house runs for half of a whole block on Pleasant and continues to loom ominously over passersby with their dog-walking and Garden District mansion tours. A burned out grocery store and a small field of satellite dishes occupy the buildings across Magazine, their faces upturned like suction cups scanning the heavens for godknowswhat. A distant baseball game. An English sitcom. An adult film channel. Hardly on my solitary walks on the nearby Mississippi River levee without discovering a face-down playing card or a penny turned medallion from the weight of the Southern Pacific that flowed along the track to this gentle stop. I’ve kept the playing cards and the smashed pennies, even found a bullet casing once…my sympathies with a place called home.

Beyond the rise of the earth that ends in a crest lies a road that connects wharves. Beyond the road is the river. The Mississippi River. That big, goddamn river with its interruption of scrub pine and weeds and its feral pack of dogs roaming the street after a heavy rain. They ran (one, I swear, was a dachshund) in the shadows, keeping a wary distance from me and my domesticated border collie as he chased sticks and tennis balls and bathed in the moonlight of the wharf’s lamps. He jumped around and yelped in the unreal glow, gnashing at bits of rope leftover from the ships, even sniffing out Russian and Argentinean sailors as they traversed the small levee toward town, like bands of children lost in the Irish Channel. I’d always assume my perch atop one of those round posts they tied ships to. This was my anchor, too. The city spread before me, rising improbably from the river like a lily, lights hazed by heat…a city insubstantial, dreamed. Here I dreamed, in the trash, amongst my friends, my dog, the junkie’s house, the river.

This levee didn’t break. The river did not gain enough steam here. It did not flood my old house, a stone’s throw from the tracks. My old house…rightfully the subject of some other short story….is now occupied by a woman I used to love, so very much.

Thank God such places exist, or how would we persuade ourselves to stay here? I gladly trail my heart behind me; leave it in forgotten places, like this levee along the Mississippi River in New Orleans. This way, if I ever again truly wanted to leave the earth (may no fate become of that), I’d have to go back to collect the pieces I’ve scattered. And I’d go back, back, back, back, back.

NP: James Booker "People Get Ready"