Drinking in New Orleans
By Melanie Plesh
I’m at the window of Molly’s at the Market, somewhere in the flux between outside and inside. Behind me is the clatter of people letting their guards down. Angels and alley cats are working things out at the bar. Two men are arguing about Stonehenge and lighting their cigarettes with Zippos. I hear the hinges creak and the lids slap shut. I probably only think I smell the lighter fluid. I settle down and let them and their conversation and their Zippos melt into the general manic late-spring din. A diva in neon green with a shrill voice laughs too loud and I feel snapped at by her. I relegate her too, and let my attention float back to the outside, to a princess in a yellow net tutu, to a man drinking something from a purple twelve inch approximation of Barbie.
Someone named “Roachlegg” has been writing on the bathroom walls.
It’s three o’clock in the afternoon. I know this because a wide-eyed woman in Mardi Gras beads just looked over my shoulder into the cacophonous multitude at the bar behind me and announced with incredulity, “It’s only three o’clock in the afternoon!” Which makes me realize it’s later than I thought.
In a ripe and unguarded moment, an old man in a frayed tweed overcoat stops at the window in front of me. His eyes are so tender. Soft. Too soft for this world. He speaks a language I cannot understand. Probably no one could. But I want to. While his eyes and voice are on me, his hand is in the ashtray taking the cigarette butts out and putting them in his pocket. I offer him a whole cigarette, hoping he’ll stay. He holds it up to his face like it’s something dear, then he backs out of my view and is gone. I feel bereft.
The sunlight has gone dim. Nina Simone is singing “Suzanne.” A perfume like iced flowers drifts through the window.
Melanie Plesh is a writer who teaches at Mandeville High School, co-directed SLWP for many years, and authored I'm in Estonia and I'm Alive! www.(lulu.com), a memoir/travelogue based on her sabbatical in Europe.