Coming back to New Orleans is like walking the graveyard of all the women I used to be.
Who I was when I was young and dumb and deliriously in love. When I was chasing my food with laxatives. When I was broke and struggling at a dead end job. Before the dark years. Before the girl. Before I lost my aunt.
I try not to focus on that as I power walk down Bourbon.
I purposefully don’t give my eyes to the balcony where I once kissed the person I thought was the love of my life and promised him forever. I cross the street when we get to the restaurant where my aunt taught me the proper way to shell a crawfish.
I’m working. I’m busy. I can’t.
I’m on both phones, maneuvering people and beer cups and beads. I lend space in my head to the tasks at hand, to the unique musical roar of the Quarter. I’m killing it at work.
I’m sitting at the office when I hear the trumpets and I can feel my heart seize in my chest. In my mind, clear as day, I can see the second line, my aunt joyfully waving her white handkerchief in the air. It hits me that this is the first time I’ve ever been to this city without her and I can barely lurch out of the room before I start to cry.
I call my best friend, choking on the words as though they’re fingers around my throat.
“Everything just reminds me that she isn’t here and I still don’t know why.”
Why is futile, of course, but I still want to know.
I go back to work. I’m busy. I can’t.
I’m killing it at work. I spend 16 hours on my feet, then 12. I unravel every impossible knot work gets tangled into. I’m exhausted and sore and content. I fall into bed and starfish across it’s king size, scissoring my legs through the moonlight coming through the big window and making the shadows dance.
At once I am back to another time I’d done the same in this city, only this time tangled around my most favorite human in the universe.
“We should do this every year.”
“We do do this every year. You’re always welcome to come.”
“I mean, even if your family doesn’t, we should. We should keep doing it even after we have kids.”
“Okay. It can be our annual no kids trip.”
“And we should always stay in this hotel. In this room. So we can keep coming back and remembering when we decided it was gonna be me and you.”
I curl up in a ball, suddenly cold and stiff. I’m too tired to get up and work until distraction. But I want to. Instead I fall asleep.
I’ve been so many different women. And for the most part I’m glad to not be them anymore. But sometimes I’m reminded of who I buried while I was becoming.