Thursday, May 6, 2010

lessons in drag

Mahogany Simone O’Hara was one of the tallest men I’ve ever met in my life. This truth was doubled in size whenever he was wearing his heels.

I never understood how we became friends in the first place as two more different people could not have existed at the time. He fully embraced who he was, I was a young kid struggling with identity issues. He loved spending weekends hunting and fishing with his brothers. I detested touching dead animals and was an only child. He was a drag queen, I was a punk rocker.

But we both loved to dance.

When the bar was getting ready to close at the end of the night he would walk up and whisper those magic words:

“45 minutes to the emerald city.”

That was our code for the bright lights of the French Quarter that were never turned off. We would jump in my car, grab a small bottle of schnapps for the ride and off we would go, generally with enough wind at our backs to knock a good ten minutes off of the trip. And in no time at all we were buzzed, beautiful and dancing on the colored lights of an outdated disco dance floor.

One New Years Eve in the middle of eighties, Mahogany and I rang in the New Year with every ounce of joy the two of us could muster. As the grey sun rose above the city we bid farewell to missed opportunities and strode confidently into a future we believed would be completely ours. And we would begin owning it right after getting something to eat.

We went to a small, dark bar on Rampart street with brick walls that had been worn smooth from years of being touched by hands that were long forgotten. Near the front door someone had set up a banquet table with an interesting array of food. Cabbage, blackeyed peas and rice. Cornbread and Frenchbread. Little sandwiches and fried pork chops. There was coffee with milk and someone had brought some cupcakes too. We made ourselves a plate and sat at the bar eating quietly like everyone else in the room.

Mahogany told me that it was a tradition of the place to feed people who had nowhere to go on New Years Day and ask for nothing in return. I looked around at all the different people who filled the small space and despite the coldness of the food I felt warm inside.

I lost track of Mahogany through the years. When I go back home and ask about her no one knows who I’m talking about and I’ve forgotten his real name. But in my head I keep a little place for him to sit down because his memory has nowhere else to go.

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