It’s never like it is in old films.
Your ex doesn’t rent the Marigny Opera house on the 10-year anniversary of the day you met for her wedding to someone else to do a U-turn like Katherine Ross in The Graduate. Besides, that’s too old school California. And you are not Dustin Hoffman. You’re his height but a lot cuter. And you’re a Newark girl, and OK being one, though the older you get the more you look like a dude. Like your father. Which displeased your mother. Who never thought you were much girl anyway.
(If she were alive you’d say, Hey, it works for Patti Smith and Eileen Myles. She wouldn’t know what you’re talking about.)
You weren’t girly enough in the Portuguese sense. Never grew your hair long or got up at 5a.m. to blow it straight before working at the light factory that’s now luxury condos. You wore the same black slacks and off-the-rack-at-Marshall’s red ruffled blouse to every wedding and baptism. Sometimes you wore a dress but, Ai, please. Your mother’s crew loved Katherine Ross, and especially Ali McGraw in Love Story. How often you watched that shit with her as a kid. It was her crack whenever your father told her she was a piece of shit. You should have paid more attention.
Sure, there are some things you can’t help, and now it’s too late: Your beak. You probably inherited it from Marrano Jews or Roma cousins your family would never cop to, though there were Stars of David over certain doorways in the house and a cigano resourcefulness, a knack for surviving the way the “Americans” looked their straight noses down at you.
But as far as your family was concerned, your lineage began and ended with them, with how far back and what they could remember. Or chose to remember. And what you could retain, which…considering your ADD…
And now they’re all dead. And if you can’t remember what they told you, tough shit. Because now they’re all dead. Except an alcoholic brother. So stop asking questions. Cause your own reels need restoring.
As for the ex, she’s still getting married. You asked her to dinner on the 10th anniversary of Katrina. You didn’t do this on purpose. You just texted her because you were ready. When your mother died your ex said I’m sorry, and told you to let her know when you were ready. Drinks, dinner, whatever. She never contacted you again after that. So you finally texted her.
Sometimes you act like this isn’t your life, like it’s somebody else’s you’re watching. Like it’s the glass ruby-throated hummingbird suspended from your empty apartment ceiling for the last 11 years, the apartment you recently abandoned to squat in your mother’s empty house, letting the lights burn out, waiting to see what happens.
The ex met you at the Belgian bistro on 17th and 7th that your current girlfriend discovered and that you now think of as yours, to do with as you please. Your ex wore a white linen smock blouse over plain black slacks. She had just left work. You were surprised. You’d never seen her so formal, so dowdy and proper. This was the girl who had worn frayed boybeaters and whose long skinny arms dangled stacks of Buddhist prayer bead bracelets and attitude. This was the girl who had dressed like all the different David Bowies for Mardi Gras, years before he died and everyone else did it.
That’s how she turned you on to New Orleans. You went with her to the first Mardi Gras after Katrina. To “show your support.” By lip synching Changes and doing E together. Among all the other artistes. She said you gave her the feels. You swear you heard the fees.
It was pure coincidence that your first date took place two months after the storm. You were both late. You met at the top of the World Trade Center train exit, which was slapped together fiberboard planks, but at least operational by then.
You don’t remember what you ate, then or now.
You can only remember. To watch your thoughts.
PaulA Neves is a native of Newark, NJ whose writing has appeared in Topanga Messenger, Writers of the Portuguese Diaspora, Pilgrimage Magazine, Gávea-Brown Journal, and elsewhere. Her artwork appears in various Glassbook Project collections (glassbookproject.com). Find her on Twitter @itinerantmuse or at paulAneves.net.