The first minutes of his birthday started with a fight after the fight… A mix of opinion, a trace of arrogance peppered with heat and the kind of love that it takes forever to suss out. It’s that ole familiarity that bartenders who have known their customers decades have.. Resigned affection and a bit of laughter.
His body broad and strong, as the tears fell, I leaned into him. Like a small child that dances on the feet of an older boy, I let him guide us through the complex sonata. What was meant to be a wild and dirty tumble became gilded. The kind of love athletics that fosters the deep rumblings of I’ll never forget, but its hard to recall.
Tears were kissed away, violins sang from the speakers to us… We, the last two of our Louisiana bandits. We had meant to be in our hometown for his birthday. Things happen. It was 1 am. We fell asleep to the ghostly strings of New Orleans.
I awoke to0 early and made grillades and grits, cafe au lait and lost bread. For my Jesuit boy in exile’s birthday morning, nothing less would do. On a tray with a paper magnolia I served what amounted to home on a plate. To wash it down, an Abita beer, that I sold my soul to procure.
It is the softness of the light, the comfort of carnal knowledge. The fear of losing what seems so hard to hang onto. It shook me today. I have become the embodiment of the refugee’s sigh. I miss the senses of home. The Patios. The river’s brine at dawn. Fresh french bread from McKenzie’s bakery, a ride out to the lake before you make groceries at Dorignacs. I miss the call of my neighbors, the days when things were grand. I miss the music makers. The tin hats and champagne dawns. I miss the swamp of our youth and New Iberia,where my grandfathers people made their share. I miss knowing someplace better than you ever knew anything. Landmarks that never changed. Men that loved you and women that understood you. You can only lose home so many times before you become lost.
We made our way through his birthday… Accepting our future in a swank Portland steakhouse. Our natural New Orleans nature bubbling forth until smiling waiters danced attendance and fellow diners at the bar became pals. It was the kind of night that gets recorded in green ink in the diaries of my years. After the meal, the crinkly wrapping paper ripped to reveal….his favorite book, first edition and a personal signature to him. Of all the things I could quest for my bookworm this was the very prize, he sighed out to me with love…
On the card inside I ascribed a quote that holds my belief in Sully and all of my lie and die team.
“The real gladiators of the world are so humble in their origins and unremarkable in appearance that when we stand next store to them in a grocery-store line, we never guess how brightly their souls can burn in the dark”
(You are and will always be my superhero)
The night passed in a whir…..safely deposited back in our home, we found waiting up, Tippy, Kiks & Nick n James and of course, Murphy the borrow dog. Drinks were poured, cake was cut and always as if by rote… the music played.
Tippy spoke up first to Kiks..”In time , do you want your children to know about YOUR family? DO you want them to know about the ins and out of Kev’s? Do you want them to know who you loved… Women and men? Your career n Kevs uh… livelihood ? We have settled everything else except……. except what you want us to remember to them…”
Before she could answer.. before we could inhale the gulp of shock. Sully was up and across the room. Nick stood, tripping as Sul swept the thin frame that is Kiks into his arms. His blonde head finding solace against her neck. He shook, heaving sobs like the giant in fairytales. Words rushed, all he couldn’t articulate before. IN a twisted knot of tears, anguish and forever friend I watched them.. waiting to feel possessive, excluded, threatened, lost, left behind, loved less.
Instead I felt pride. The kind of gut busting want to shout it out with middle fingers blazing. THESE_ THESE ARE MY FUCKING PEOPLE. My kin, my brethren, my lie n die.
They make me whole.
There was a whole damned lot of caterwauling n cryin snotty snotting from all of us. Then nectar of Bacchanalians was passed.None like us and None like us cheered.
A little unsteady we all found our way to our respective bedrooms. The door closed. My man sighed. The complexities of our lives fell silent. He unzipped my dress. I unbuttoned his shirt and the clock passed up 12. A birthday gone. A man a year older. A story readies itself to be told. And in our way, with memories and cotton whispers we found our way back home.