Southern Legitimacy Statement: I thought New Orleans pretty exotic for the fifteen years I scrambled after a living there. Now that I live in Lafayette, in the heart of Acadiana, I see where the Big Easy gets her best material. But, oh–to take a line scribed in a sidewalk of hers–“My dahlin’ Noo Awlins”!
Most of the Time I Feel All Right
The last time we had this experience it was autumn. This was before we broke the lease, and before Merrill and everything with you and Matt. The air was cool on the steps. I was drinking a beer, like I still did then. You were drinking a cup of coffee, I think, with cream and sugar and whatever. You said we’d have to start thinking about Christmas.
I said yeah, but only because I was stuck. I barely got what you meant. Think about Christmas?
You said, So you got any ideas? And I said, What. I’m thinking, Think what about Christmas? And you look at me with that sort of fed-up look, with your lips twisted together. You knew I wasn’t getting it. And you’re getting pissed. It’s turning into something bigger than me not paying attention. And I say, What? And with your face like that, your eyes watering up makes you look like you’re really broken up. Hey, I say. What?
And you shook your head to show you didn’t want to talk about it, or you couldn’t. You looked away. And I felt this weight come down on me, like what we were doing about Christmas was canceling it. You finally said, I was talking about my mother—Oh! Your mother?—and you looked at me for a couple seconds. You said, My mother wanted to come and spend a couple of days with us during the holidays.
I put my hand on your shoulder. ’Cause the cancer was something I’d just lost sight of. I’d heard you, definitely—I had a mom, too—but with everything going on I didn’t even think about that. And when I remembered, it was like, Oh, shit. And you were…not just hurt, I knew, but you were thinking about more than this one thing. You were thinking maybe about how your troubles might not really be my troubles, too. So that you had those problems all on your own. No, not problems; troubles. Or Trouble, with a capital T. Like when you’re a kid and you’re In Trouble.
See, I do know how you felt. Even if it looked like I didn’t and like you were alone with all that. But I couldn’t tell you. What could I have said to let you know? So I sat there with my hand on your shoulder and waited. And said Hey. Said your name. Do you remember that?
What made it hard was that it kind of felt true. That your troubles were your private troubles and I couldn’t share them if I wanted to. And you couldn’t share mine.
Merrill says that’s how you know you’ve found the right person; you do share things. She says we should be glad we’re with the right people now. That we’ve found each other. I’m glad she feels that way—she ought to be happy at this point in her life. I’m not sure I see a big difference, is all. But that’s the kind of thing you keep to yourself.