A Table with a Handle
A friend of mine left town in a hurry. She shed her possessions like a snake sheds, you know, its skin.
She called to say that what she couldn’t sell over the weekend through Craigslist, the rest she would give to a local thrift store. She asked me to come over to her place to see if I wanted anything.
Now, that could be the start of a Raymond Chandler novel. (Thank goodness my life isn’t a Raymond Chandler novel.)
I drove Uptown and greeted her at her door. She was nervously excited to be cutting free and moving on. The first things I saw were the only things I wanted: a naive oak coat rack and a circular table that raises and lowers with a crank-driven rack gear. I’m writing this on that table.
I paid her a fair price and loaded my car with my coat rack and the table with a crank handle and rack gear. Two days later, I took her to the airport where she started to cry when she told me how lucky I was to have what I have. I didn’t understand immediately what she meant. She was at the curb with a suitcase and a framed piece of art in a computer monitor box. We talked things through and I offered her all the sincere encouragement I could without bullshitting her.
I learned a long time ago that there are two things you don’t offer a crying person. You don’t offer tissues because that stops the crying at the time when the tears clearly need to flow. (Many people are afraid of crying ugly. Tough shit. Cry it out and let the snot fly, that’s what I say. Hide the Kleenex box.) And you don’t offer lies. Hurt is already on the table; don’t try to brush it off with lies for my own comfort.
She felt better, at least more in control, after a few minutes. We said goodbye. I waved as she entered the airport and I climbed back into my car. I had to spend a few minutes considering what it was that I had presented about me that brought out her regrets and sadness.
During the drive to the airport, she had asked me what was going on in my life, so I told her about a woman I met over the summer. I told her about my wonderful summer and how this woman was now on the opposite side of the planet. (The woman had things to do that took her far away; the distance was impossible. I had fallen hard for the woman. So, this was when I had to pick myself up.) Yet I smiled when I spoke of her, and I always will. I love her, after all, and love is a beautiful thing, baby.
I’m a grateful person. I’m a lucky person and I know it. I also don’t allow myself to be trapped by adversity. This is not a simple thing to achieve. Don’t take this to mean that I don’t get down. Hell, over the last year, the time when I should have felt the happiest is when I was deepest in the well. Yet, I did recover. I floated to the surface just in time to gulp in the best breath of all, the one that reminded me to be a grateful person.
[I have left a lot unwritten, unshared. That’s my business.Ten people are going to read this. If you have questions, call me and I will fill in the blanks.]
I live in New Orleans. (For most of my life, I never thought I’d ever be able to say that.) I’m learning to listen better and speak less. I’m learning to recognize the delightful hallucinations that dance across the railroad tracks here, the tracks that separate the near past from the almost present.
Some who don’t “get” New Orleans complain that we live in the past here. (They complain about a lot of things, actually.) That’s a tone deaf argument. Speaking only for myself, and not as one of the self-appointed arbiters of what New Orleans “means” (barf), there is a direct link between yesterday and today here. And tomorrow is a continuation of that flow.
We dance in the streets as a matter of civic duty. Not because we are drunk but because we know better.
For me, that’s the start and end of my case.
This is where I stop writing.
Up in the sky tonight, a fat moon reminds those of us who are paying attention that we are on a rock spinning through a sort of empty space. How fortunate are we that another rock hangs up in the sky to give us back some of the light the sun takes away like a petulant lover?
If I were scoring this piece, a banjo would be plucked about now, by a gentle hand.