There is no way that my weekend could have possibly gone any better than it did. NO WAY POSSIBLE. It went so well that I’m rendered almost speechless.
Immediately after posting about what a nervous, excited wreck I was, I go jump in my truck. I’m not really stressing about leaving so late because the airport is literally about 7 minutes from my house on the northwest side of the city. I speed down some backstreets (because I like to drive fast, not because I was rushing) and pull into the driveway of the airport and start looking for his flight. Except I don’t see it. I know he had a layover. Maybe he took a different carrier in? I check his itinerary in on my phone.
Yeah… right airline, WRONG FUCKING AIRPORT. Are you shitting me?!?! He’s ALLLLL the way across town. And if you’ve ever been to the cavernous stretch of hell that is Houston, you know that “across town” isn’t a quick 15, 20 minute jaunt. Let’s try more like a 45 minute ride.
I make it in 25 minutes (because I believe speed limits are suggestions) and as I pull in, my phone rings. It’s my aunt, whom I call TeeDede, who is already in New Orleans. Her syrupy drawl on the other line makes me smile.
“Hey baby, ” she says with her thick New Orleans accent. “I hear y’all comin’ down by me tomorrow.”
She as I talk as I text The Great Houdini with my other hand, swerving in and out of traffic with my knees steering the car. She and I talk until I pull up at the curb.
“So,” she starts, “I hear you bringing somebody with you, yeah?”
“Um, yeah, I’m bringing…. my boyfriend?” I say like a question because it still sounds somewhat strange to me.
“I heard! Your mama really likes this one. I say to her, well, do we like this one? And I’m wondering you know ‘cause she hasn’t liked many of them since um, what’s that boy’s name?”
“Yeah, him. And she say she really likes this one here.”
“Yeah, that’s the general consensus. Everyone can’t help but like his charming ass.”
“But that’s what you like so stop actin’ crazy.”
I laugh because, you know, she’s right.
After we disconnect, I send him a text telling him I’m out front. He sees my car. He smiles. I smile. And then I burst out laughing at myself because I feel, well, a little bit like a loser. I pop the trunk, jump out, so excited that I forget to change out of my flip flops and into my heels that I had hiding in the backseat. He drops his bags and scoops me up like I’m a child. He kisses me and the nervousness dissipates. Now I just feel all romantic comedy giddy.
I drive back across town, the conversation like we’ve never spent a day apart. My phone rings. My mother has been blowing up my phone all day. She’s called me NO LESS than six times in the last hour to ask me if The Great Houdini was here yet, even though I told her I’d call her when we left the airport. She just so happens to call as we’re approaching the exit to her condo.
“You hungry?” she asks both of us on speaker, less like a question and more like a request we know we can’t turn down.
After giving him a tour of her place, we head over to a neighborhood bar for food and to prepare our livers for the damage we plan to do to them once in New Orleans tomorrow. I fold up under his arm, one leg thrown over his, his hand on my ass. While we sit there and laugh and joke and talk shit, I realize I feel happier than I’ve felt in a long time. Even my mama looks like she’s having fun.
And had I not had to show my ass on the bubble headed waitress, it woulda been perfect.
We wake up, run some errands to get ready to get on the road. Well, kinda. Mostly, we go to Waffle House after getting my braces adjusted. (Waffle House is very important to us.) Afterwards, we go scoop my mama at which point TGH climbs in the backseat and says that he’s going to “take a nap”. Before we even get out of downtown Houston, he’s snoring over the Stevie Wonder we have blaring. He continues to do so well into Lake Charles. My first thought is that I can’t believe I ever got used to that damn sound. The fact that we have ever been able to sleep in the same bed is a miracle of epic proportions. I catch a glimpse of him in the rear view. He looks like a little boy when he sleeps. Before I can stop myself I wonder if this is what our son will look like when he sleeps, too.
And then I try to figure out if I can accurately aim to throw a sock in his mouth so he can shut the hell up long enough for me to hear “Superstition.”
We make it to New Orleans about 8ish. We left about 3pm and it’s supposed to be a 6 hour drive… that’s all I have to say about that. Upon arrival, my mama was anxious to see her best friends- my godparents- so we drop her off in the French Quarter and go to check into our hotel. We are staying at the Days Inn on Canal Street. I tell you this so that you may NEVER EVER EVER stay there, EVER IN LIFE. Why? You might ask? Well…
The first room they sent us to had no linens on the beds. Where were they? You ask. Why, they were dumped in a tied up trash bag sitting in the middle of the floor. The room hadn’t been cleaned in, well, ever it appeared. There was this smell lingering in the very paint on the walls that I can only imagine is somewhat akin to that of a crime scene involving a decomposing body.
“Oh, you have GOT to be fuckin’ kidding me with this shit,” I say and we go back down to the lobby, me all ready to raise hell and TGH just standing back shaking his head because he knows it’s not gonna be pretty.
After some arguing with the front desk clerk, we get to the second room. It too, has a nice mildew smell, which I guess is coming from the MOLD IN THE CEILING tiles. There’s a hole in the wall. The air conditioner is rattling. There is at least a foot of mold on the bottom of the shower curtain. The tiles in the bathroom are brown. They used to be white. How do I know? Because I can see where the toilet has moved slightly and exposed the color the tile USED to be. On top of all of that, everything in the room is slightly damp because everything is muggy and gross. Oh and did I mention that the room next to us looked like Katrina had JUST ripped through it? I’m talking door ripped off the hinges, lighting fixtures hanging, mildew smell, dry wall crumpled on the floor.
I am the cleanest woman in the universe. This is not gonna work. I start looking for new hotels immediately. Of course, with it being so late, it’s difficult to find one as it is Jazz Festival weekend. I wanna cry. TGH makes me change clothes and leave the room to go meet my fam. I will not stay in this hotel all weekend.
We walk Bourbon Street looking for my mama and godparents who have long since gotten the party started at Pat O’Brien’s. We find them, stumbling towards us, all smiles and laughter, and the nervousness sets back in. My godfather sets his sights on TGH.
“What’s your name young man?”
“The Great Houdini.”
He gives him The Look, the one that is meant to strike fear into the heart of even the most extraordinary man. TGH doesn’t look away. Instead, he somehow ends up with a drink. My godfather smiles.
We all walk and laugh and talk shit all the way back down Bourbon to find somewhere to eat. TGH leans over to me.
“They’re all nuts.”
We find a place called La Bayou, and after getting shade from the black man at the door who doesn’t want to let us sit out on the balcony (considered prime seating as it overlooks the street), finally a white boy that looks a little bit like Nick Lachey shows us to our table and takes our order. We start to discuss some of the ongoing racial politics still prevalent in the city. Everyone was pretty cordial to me (the lightest of the group) but still somewhat standoffish to everyone else (more on that later). As we talk, I notice Godfather’s chest puff out. Lordy. He is the consummate man’s man. Articulate, intelligent, prideful.
We start ordering. Everything. Anything we want. The waiter’s eyes bulge slightly. We all order drinks. We get a couple appetizers. We get entrees. All of which are not at Applebee’s prices. We eat, drink, and take pictures. Life is good. When the check comes, Godfather whips out his card before anyone else can even reach for their purses and wallets. I laugh on the inside. He had to show, in his own way, that not only was his family worthy of better treatment than what we received, but that he could provide for them all. God, I love black men.
We walk them back to their hotel, and TGH and I wander back into the French Quarter in search of a mysterious drink called a Hand Grenade. I don’t get one since I’m already tired as hell but he does. He gets about halfway down the tall glass before he starts blinking slow. Which is scary because this man can DRINK. We are holding hands and walking, pausing for him to let me sip from his cup and for him to kiss me. As we wind our way back out of the Quarter, he stops me in the middle of Bourbon Street, turning me so he can look me square in the face. His eyes are familiar but the look in them is unrecognizable, some tsunami of internal workings I know instinctively he won’t tell me. Instead, he lowers his face to mine and kisses me like it’s the first time. The crowd noise hushes to silence around us and for just a second, there is nothing else in the world but the feeling of his lips on mine.
Back at the hotel of the damned, we fall asleep clutching each other. Not because we’re cuddly sleepers but because if we don’t one of us will fall off the small ass bed.
TGH wakes me up early. He’s always wakes up before me. Usually he lets me sleep for awhile until he gets tired of being up alone. For a minute I smile because I love waking up to him kissing my forehead and nuzzling my neck.
And then I remember we’re lying in a bed inside the 7th dimension of hell.
We get up immediately. I shower with my flip flops on because everything is THAT disgusting. When I get out, the bed catches my eye.
“Baby!” Lemme see your face! Are you bleeding? What’s wrong?” He looks at me all confused.
“I’m good mami. Why?”
“Cause there’s blood on your pillow.”
We look at each other. Then at the bed.
Two things should be said here…
#1 His face is perfectly smooth.
#2 TGH doesn’t sleep on pillows.
“Oh, are you fuckin’ kidding me?!?!?!” I exclaim as I throw on some clothes and we grab our stuff to hurry out of the only hotel I know of worse than the conditions in prison.
By this time we get downstairs I am shaking with anger. He hangs back as I fly up to the desk, seemingly scoping out an emergency exit in case I make a scene. He knows me well enough to know when I get this angry, it’s best to give me space. I ask for a manager. I decide my best tactic is to stay calm. It will significantly impair my drinking plans for the rest of the day if I am arrested. Despite this aim though, I think my controlled anger scares the hell out of the manager. He stays very far away from the counter and refunds my money from a safe distance.
We go meet the family at their hotel at the Iberville Suites, and slowly I start to relax after telling them about our hotel experience. While we are talking, we realize that we’ve gotten to the point where we finish each other’s sentences.
Food is more imperative than anything at this point so we set off into the Quarter for breakfast. I fight love bugs all the way there, dropping and breaking my phone in the process. Once we reach the restaurant and sit down, I realize I can’t get the damn phone to turn back on. TGH MacGyvers in some type of way. Once again, he saves the day.
Then comes the liquor. Lots of it. At Pat O’s to begin with, starting with a Hurricane that made me feel fuzzy around the edges. The Great Houdini gets a Category Five, some concoction that is really just flavored Tequila. Between the liquor and the sun, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna die soon and I realize my only hope is to order another drink so I stay hydrated.
The best part of New Orleans is the fact that you can walk the streets with your liquor. So we do. I stop and get a Hand Grenade, that is pretty much guaranteed to put me on my ass. And then we bar hop. At one point, we’re walking down Bourbon and some white boys sitting up on a balcony start shouting some ignorance to me, my mama, and my godmother. My godfather’s eyes darken. Before he can open his mouth, I hear TGH’s voice from behind me, his hand on my back pushing me forward.
“I know you drunk and shit but don’t get stupid, white boy,” he says, his voice angrier than I have ever heard it. The white boys back down and go inside. That makes me laugh. My mama makes a comment about feeling safe around certain black men.
“He takes good care of you,” she says of TGH. I smile. That’s an understatement. I chuckle under my breath as he pushes me forward, behind all of us, looking back at the rambunctious dudes on the balcony. I am pretty sure if a similar situation had transpired and my family wasn’t there, we’d be fighting.
We end up at some place I can’t remember, drinking and dancing to a cover band. Right around this time, my godfather decides to share his impression of The Great Houdini. I knew it was coming.
“You know, I like him. He’s got heart. That means a lot with me. That other nigga you dated, he was aight, but he had no heart. I’ve only known this man, what, not even 24 hours, and I respect him. Good job, babygirl.”
I smile. A huge, wide, epic smile. I look over my shoulder at TGH. He’s smiling just as big. He tucks me underneath his arm and pulls me back against him. I feel his lips on the back of my hair.
The rest of the night is a blur. There is A LOT more liquor. A LOT. Drunken white lady flashes the entire bar her boobs. Other drunken white lady falls on her flat ass. Drunken white man sings off key with the band. A round of shots. 3 for $5 beers. SoCo and lime. More Hand Grenades. Lemon Drops. Good lord.
Later, we meet my TeeDede for dinner at a restaurant off Broad named Pampy’s. We sit, all of us, gathered around the biggest table in the restaurant, laughing too loud and talking too much. I fuss at TGH’s allergies to shellfish keeping him from kissing me. He tells me he’ll make it up to me and kisses my hand. Out of the corner of my eye I catch the looks being passed by the elders that they don’t think I see.
This feels like the way it was meant to be.
At the end of the night, we checked into our new hotel room.
And promptly had a stupid fight.
I fell asleep hugging the corner of the huge King bed, a cavern between us. But by morning, I’d found my way back into his arms, where I was supposed to be.