We both know what today is; it is May 12, 2003…
I am in the “treacherous stairway” at the Tricou House at 711 Bourbon St. I am carrying a large black plastic bag of wasted food, left over and careless tourist nibbles poshly pushed off their plates to say, “oh, no, no, this Andouille sausage simply will not suffice, it is just too spicy.”
Twenty-four hours into the past I am on the phone with you, your voice is dragging the way too much alcohol, too many narcotics, too many anxiolytics, too many all at once taking control from a tongue and mechanically touching random ridges, bumbling over bilabials, stumbling a cough and glottal stop…
(I can hear breathing, shallow, breathing like seeing the leaves or gnats pirouette on the sidewalk and hearing nothing, hearing no thing, breathing like a wind vain, breathing like a hemispherical cup anemometer spinning only when I look away and it’s only a squeal, a squeak off in the periphery.)
Tomorrow I am working, I won’t have time to call, I’m sorry, I want to wish you a happy mother’s day, how are you?”
(I’m praying for the first time in 12 years.)
“Fine, I’m, somewhere and doing- ok.”
(I can hear your deep breathing, your dry mouth and too much saliva collecting around your tonsils. I can hear your eyelids like a diver splashlessly clearing water. I can hear your lips turn down, I can hear your mouth unable to open wide, lips like waiting over petals, lips like turning the page in a book that I’m not sure I will keep enjoying)
“You don’t sound very well.”
(You sound like you are dying, you sound like a voice I will never hear again. You sound like I am now lost–losing you.)
“I think I took the wrong. Something pills that shouldn’t mix. The Dr. said I’m fine, I love you.”
(“I love you.” The words come out hollow in a Milton form of vacant chaos… There is nothing I can say to convey how much I need you.)
“Happy mother’s day, if I find time- can I call you tomorrow?”
(It is already 24 hours into the future, I know this is our last conversation.)
“Yes. Tomorrow. Thank you, I love you. Don’t forget.”
It is 24 hours into the future, 5:15pm, May 13th, 2003. I am in the “treacherous stairway” at the Tricou House at 711 Bourbon St. where a woman, Penelope, is said to have lost her footing decades ago and fell to her death, I am carrying a large black plastic bag of wasted left overs, careless tourists nibble poshly at pushed off plates to say, “oh, no, no, Oysters Evangeline simply will not suffice, how is this even palatable to these southerners?”
I can feel my mobile vibrate in my right pocket, there isn’t anything I can do. It vibrates again, 5 more times. A voicemail is left. I’m pouring water down the cobble stone hallway flushing vomit into the gutters of Bourbon St. Errol, the porter, hands, under table, to me a shot of Glenlivet and with index finger to lips he exhales with a tongue pressed against his alveolar ridge, “shhh.”
My throat and belly is burning.
My phone is vibrating again.
“Hello? Dad, what’s up?”
(It is 3 minutes into the future- I can’t even breathe to speak)
“Are you busy? You sound like you are at work?”
(It is 2 minutes into the future- my boss is just telling me, “go, you’re covered, whatever this is, go home, you’re fine.”)
“Yes, but I have a break, what’s up?”
(It is 1 minute into the future– I am nearly asphyxiating.)
“Sit down, light a cigarette, if you can- light two.”
My father is on the other end of my mobile in broken words, no sentences that I can understand, “your mother,” a ringing presents itself in my ears, temporary tinnitus, “it appears to be suicide, she hanged herself” (I didn’t call her), “are you ok?” (I didn’t call her, I said I would), “I will call Molly, Jason? Are you there? Don’t go anywhere, I’ll have Molly come get you. Just stay where you are.”
It is 5:25pm, May 13th, 2003. I am at the corner of Orleans St. and Bourbon St. watching a kaleidoscopic of vomit and tears pool into fractals between my feet. A man is approaching me he says, “can’t be that bad, and this, this you can not do here.”
“My mother,” I can barely gasp, “suicide, mother’s day, I didn’t call her.”
It is 5:30pm, May 13th, 2003. A man is taking his hand off the shoulder of a crying boy, he is walking backwards and trips over the curb. Speechlessly he mutters something rhyming with compassion.
Through a haze of a chiaroscuro, almost sfumato, blur of tears, white hyperventilation stars dance in my vision and color, for the first time in my colorblind life, is all I can make sense of…
Neon, cardinal, agate quartz, Ares red.
Vitreous humor, bone, teeth, lightning white.
Acorn, hawk, bear, haire, duck brown.
What I am is a fragment of jumping leaping skipping falling and flashforwards, flashbacks, flashups and downs and flashsideways. (I didn’t call you.)
I am in the passenger side of my 1987 Chevrolet Cheyenne like leaves carried from corner to building, to hawk eyes, and birds, to lakes, and rivers, to corner by your
death breath rattle.
I am bones strung together by too thin wire in an opaque translucent skin sack centripetally, centrifugally, moving like a marionette guided by a motion puppeteer and vacant.
You are not gone, you cannot be.
“It’s a suicide, she hanged herself.”
It is 7 years into the future. I am on my road bicycle leaving my North Side apartment to go to work. The route I take is from the North Side up California and down Allegheny Ave. When I hit the tail end of the hill on California ave. I am, always, all ways, experiencing the exercise high that people talk about. I do this 7 miles to work and then 7 home.
I am at the peak of California’s hill and my mind is nothing but an LHC of thoughts I couldn’t even begin to describe. The distances between all neurons are collapsing from minute distances to–no longer measurable. The bike is the road is the path is the commute to work is the responsibility of a job is the reason I have a job is the reason I live in Pittsburgh is the voice…
That shouts from within to ask me, “why?”
“Why did you leave New Orleans 7 years ago anyway?”
(I can only imagine what the residence on Lincoln ave felt when they saw a solitary cyclist maudlin and weeping over his handle bars.)
“Because… It should have changed.”
I am convincing myself that moving back to Pittsburgh, staying in Pittsburgh then somehow, someway, somewhen– you’re suicide did not happen and if it did, I can reverse it.
It’s 5 minutes into the future and my truck bed is full of everything I own. It’s 30 seconds into the future and I am driving down Route 376 to catch a connecting road to take me to New Orleans again.