As of Midnight

(written 10/1/13)


Multi-colored voodoo masks watch over me,
nailed up above rows of multi-colored bottles.
She serves me a drink.
Only twenty minutes past midnight
and my ritual is complete.

She doesn’t know she’s her.
She doesn’t know there’s a her for her to be.
I’ve never told her about this ritual of mine,
and how she’s a part of it.

As of midnight it is October 1st.
As of midnight I’ve lived here for six years.
She served me my first drink when I moved here.
And every year I track her down,
find which bar she’s tending,
and once October 1st hits,
I don’t have a drink until she serves me one.

It can take days –
once it took nearly a week.
This year it took twenty minutes.

The bar itself so scarred and chipped,
chunks of the city’s history hanging from the rafters above
by thin chains
like wind chimes.
Chartreuse shimmers in my glass like melted emerald,
the ice cubes all coated and glistening –
a rocks glass full of kryptonite.

Tom Waits comes on the jukebox,
though none of his albums are on
that machine.

I order another,
enough so that my skin will turn translucent
and my footprints will be green
when I leave.

She is such a part of my New Orleans.
But to her,
I’m a guy sitting at a busy bar,
scribbling into a notebook.
Someone she says hi to
when she passes him on the street.

And I like that.

It encaptures the city for me,
the way I am a not even a side character
in her world.

It makes me wonder how many people
have me as part of their New Orleans,
while I just serve them coffee
and nod as I ride my bike past them.

Every year I almost tell her
about how I’ve brought her into this
dance of mine.

One year,
perhaps I will.

But not this year.