October 2020 — March 2021; pieces of a journal which is being retired

October 3, 2020 — The angel trumpet trees are hanging heavy with pink blooms. I try to count them and stop at one hundred. The storm last night left another hundred wilting on the cement, wet and sticky and needing to be removed. This summer we have been trying to keep three plants alive: Thai basil, peppermint, and mojito mint. The president has Covid.

October 21, 2020 — Gray morning at Crescent Park. City buildings sit, gray, their 80’s architecture marring an otherwise-charming view. There is a soft spot of yellow on the horizon, peeking over the tugboats as they make waves. The man who dances alone in the park inspires fear in me, even though we’ve met. I think that men are allowed to be kinder to strangers. Many people sleep in sleeping bags, and they were all children once. We let them down. The church bells ring off-key.

November 22, 2020 — The ocean is cold, the waves unpredictable. Jokes in another language. We walk on the sand, read our books, lie on the daybed, and he asks me to marry him. We drink champagne and shoot tequila and sleep through a hurricane and find fajitas. We nap like cats whenever the sun appears and I drive fast on the highway, motorbike making me free again. We guard baby turtles as they crawl toward their home.

December 1, 2020 — I am three years old the first time I feel shame. I have gotten shit on my church dress, green velvet with white lace. I am in children’s church in the winter and I am playing and I am laughing and my hair is very short. When I got that hair cut I told my mom I looked like the boy in the Tasmanian devil cartoon. I am nine years old the first time I feel envy. There are so many things we can’t afford that I’m not allowed to want. I remember this intense fear of being in trouble. I couldn’t control my tone. I was regularly in trouble. I want to be the best. I want to carry around a piece of paper on which someone has written “She is good. You can trust her. She is smart. You can train her and build her up. She is worthy. She is cool.” I want a failure-proof vouched existence. There is a child-like sensitivity to me. When someone doesn’t like me, it stirs my guts and I fall all over myself trying to fix it, feeling the whole time like I must defend and protect and also fly under the radar and also speak up and also and also and also.

December 18, 2020 — To sit in high grass and turn my face to the sun. My grandfather died alone, while his son lay in another hospital bed sobbing through the phone. Louis held my dad’s hand, a classmate of my younger brother, and my mother sat at home, losing her taste and smell. Like that film about the end of the world? Next comes sight, plunging everyone into darkness. I want my presence to be desired, my input to be sought after, my worth obvious. I want to create a family tree whose branches are sturdy; a tree that feels like an ecosystem, with every member giving and taking. The wind rustles the high grass and the sun casts shadows on my face. A crow caws, a cricket sings, a lark flies. “Don’t feed the alligators,” the signs say, to remind you that you are in the bayou. This is Louisiana. I have been teaching the history of the pioneers and the American Indians on the prairie. That’s where the trunk of my family resides. I feel so far from being rooted: it seems like a card I’ll never draw from the deck. The ability to grow deeper instead of further. The high grass whispers to me. The sun sinks.

December 26, 2020 — You said yes to me, and I read The Little Prince out loud to you. To help you understand; I now know the value of a rose. Love has tamed me and helped me create a home. For many years I thought “I am not the type,” but you have changed all that. It’s the day after Christmas. The birds are singing, the sun is shining, and the streets of New Orleans are cold. We stay in, drink rum, clean up, hoping that future holidays there will be people to embrace and sleep on the floor, to gather around us. This one is just ours.

January 11, 2021 — I blow out the candle, step out of the bathtub. Wrap myself in a towel. The smoke curls into my nose and I, unconsciously, look around for a birthday. The privilege of smelling ash and thinking ‘wishes.’

February 5, 2021 — I used to be a better neighbor: now I forget names. I never used to keep track of favors: now every word you utter sounds like blame. I used to smile at strangers: now my head stays down against the wind. I used to know what I wanted. I think I’ll need to find that out again. The hip have vans, striped pants, patchwork coats, rescue dogs, expensive bikes. In a city where everyone is free to be themselves, winter wraps me in black leggings and hoodies, drowning in solitude. Could someone please invite me to their French Quarter mansion? I need palms on a patio and a pink chaise lounge, I need ice cubes clinking in a glass. Stretching becomes breathing becomes resting and I listen to the phone conversations that happen on my corner. I need the steam. I need to be around living things. Orthodoxy must be such a comfort at times, books and men, so sure of what not to do.

February 7, 2021 — The ten and a half month slump. A little man in a famous film repeats the word ‘Inconceivable!’ Ten and a half months of the inconceivable and the cognitive dissonance still warps my senses and sentences. If you work in a hospital, you see and feel the daily wrench. If you work in a nursing home, you see the empty chairs. If you work in a school, grades are due and you’re devastated.

February 20, 2021 — The funny part is that all religions were once cults, they simply became socially acceptable and widespread. Conservative means averse to change, liberal comes from the word liberated, or free. The people who once advocated for foot-binding, child labor, child brides, the caste system, slavery, genital mutilation (many of these are still happening) — which ideology do you think they espoused? In the future, racism, homophobia, transphobia, militarized police — these things will be unacceptable, even as conservatives cling to them and shout that this is a battle between right and wrong, good and evil. The most religious people I know do, say, and feel the most evil. There is no joy or freedom or spaciousness or clarity there. All prophets are false.

February 22, 2021 — The leaves are bunched against the baseboards of the yellow house on the corner. ‘Ay mamacita’ is called out as I dare lock eyes over my mask. A very tired ‘fuck you’ becomes my sigh. The woman in line was moving to South Korea and I want to tell her not to. This latte cost me $7. Supporting local business.

February 23, 2021 — Dreams: a white alligator in the street outside L’Usine. A math test that I am late for on a campus I’ve never seen, with hallways that turn into the tubes from the McDonald’s play place. A nightmare: a man puts his booted foot in the door and comes in with a knife, and I am locked in the front room of a house I used to live in.

March 20, 2021 — Good things: It’s the first day of spring. I voted. I am fully vaccinated. My parents got their first shots. I’ve had the same therapist for five months. I have exercised for twenty two days in a row. My 33rd birthday is in 11 days. When we leave for Thailand in July, I’ll have less than 10,000 in debt. I am learning more about organizing. In a week, I get to see my girlfriends around the world online. In two weeks, I get to get married.

March 27, 2021 — I know that Sundays I can park in the quarter for free, so I park in the quarter for free. I find an antique store and ask to look at pins. For some reason, I need to do this, need to buy this, something old, I can feel it in my lungs there’s no time. I keep my mask on, but it doesn’t stop men from staring, coming closer. I. walk. so. fast. I bolt around tourists, dart in and out, a man gets way too close, leans over me and I say “Don’t walk toward me.” He starts yelling, “There’s nothing to watch you ugly ass bitch,” and I’m not even bothered or annoyed. In these situations, there will be time to get angry later, my only thought right now is distance. I know, I know, it happens every day, all the time, but every time it feels like I am doing something to draw the ire, like my smallness takes up too much space and I dare to walk with purpose and must be busted down a notch, like my self is an invitation to speak, to harass. The pin is too much, but she knows I won’t bargain. I buy it because it’s the perfect shade of pink.

Early Childhood Educator. New Orleans, Louisiana. Travel Writer — Fodor’s Essential Guide to Vietnam.

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