Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Short Story: New Opening


couillion - [KOO YOn]
noun: a person who lacks sense or judgment, a fool, imbecile, idiot, dumb mother-f*cker 
adjective : crazy, funny, stupid, silly
note : can be used as a term of affection or as an invective, as an insult

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The stupide tourists having a picnic in the cemetery rouse me from my solitude, from my daydreams and memories. When next I visit, there'll be another set looking much the same, what with their cheap plastic beads and blistered faces. I squirm around until I get comfortable again leaning against the oven vault's brick wall, the bricks warming my back while the wall's shade shields me from the late afternoon heat. The tourists come in droves to gawk at our cities of the dead or to look for Marie Laveau's tomb, to take pictures and tell each other ghoulish stories until they giggle with fear or they shiver with morbid delight. They're not the least bit interested in the factual stories entombed with the population of New Orleans' necropolises.

They sneak glances at me, a local, as they pass. I smile and wave, just a lift of my hand to acknowledge them, and then close my eyes again. If they only knew how the dead can linger, long after their bodies have decomposed. But they'd just pass it off as another New Orleans masquerade, one only that adds to their fascination with the place.

Despite their macabre imagination, they don't believe the things they say, all those things about magic and fantômes. But I do. I know he lingers. I've heard his voice, soft as a lover's whisper. So I visit as often as possible, to keep him company. It's only right that I do so.

Behind my eyelids, I can see him, his lopsided grin. That quirky, sly smile was the only thing that kept his angelic face from being beautiful. I still remember his long, lanky frame walking away in those faded Levis I so adored, the feel of his hand in mine, and I wonder whether the idea of a year and a day is absolute, whether the heat of a New Orleans summer can reduce a body to ash in so few days. It has been nearly a year. At this point if the crypt were opened, would anyone know the différence, if it was him or just another decomposing body? I suspect not, but on days like this, when I come to visit, when I look back and wonder, I contemplate whether I would have, should have done something different. Probably not. I'm not exactly known for making the best decisions—thank you, Momma—but I like to think I learned from the experience, at least as much as I benefitted from it. Then again, probably not.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only early-July of last year and hot as nine-hundred hells as I walked up to the ramshackle storefront. The sign on the door said Laveau Botanicals, and I hesitated on the stoop wondering what possessed me to come here. Standing there in the smothering humidity, it all seemed silly. In my head, I could hear Momma laughing. Or she would be laughing if she knew that I was going to some old hoodoo woman to help me get a man. You're such a homely girl. Take what you can get, for God's sake. She had said those words so many times, I could feel ugly tattooed on my forehead. I nearly turned around and headed home. After all, as Momma would have said, her words heavy with sarcasm, this wasn't exactly the best of neighborhoods.

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