It was another moment of free fall. That position you find yourself in right after you take that leap into the unknown, and just before you discover where you will land.
I left behind the horror of Keith’s death and the failure of a rebound relationship to spend several months of my life rediscovering what it meant to be just Robert. But there was pain in the seed that I had planted and despite what I believed about myself I grew distant and unconnected from the world and the feelings that stirred in the pits of my existence.
There’s always that one Mardi Gras where you and your friends are the gang that rules. Well, that year was our turn. After patiently waiting and grooming ourselves to be senior party girls, we were ready to take on the responsibility of the funnest, the loudest, the last standing turn the lights off when you leave queens.
Now, I loved going on dates, but rarely did they turn out to be anything more than a prelude to later acts of dodging and hiding from perpetrators of boring conversations and unwelcome advances. No, I’ll admit to more than my fair share of chance encounters to keep me entertained in those days. But it was exhausting. And it drained me emotionally even further than I already was.
I remember waking up early that Fat Tuesday. I dressed quickly and headed towards Elysian Fields, and the apartment where my friends were awaiting my arrival. The sun was peering over the tops of the oak trees and I could see a woman sitting on her stoop just ahead of me. She was in a chair, leaning back, with a leather mini skirt and fishnet stockings caressing her legs which were stretched out on the wrought iron handrail.
“Good morning. Happy Mardi Gras.”
She smiled, cocked open her legs and I clearly realized, as she was wearing no underwear, that she was more of a man than I ever would be.
Happy Mardi Gras indeed.
I’m not going to bore you with the details of the day. How can you put properly confine the image of Dorothy and Glinda dancing in silver confetti, the man with the beard and the hole in the jeans, the leather harness, the eternal flame of Café Lafitte in Exile, and the many trips to the apartment to freshen ourselves up for the next round of madness.
But late in the evening I reached a point where I could no longer tolerate the shallowness of my own actions. Not clarity, but a drug induced epiphany convinced me that I wanted more in my life, and I promised that the next decent guy who asked me out would be given a proper chance to get to know me. The real me, who was lurking just below the surface of my soul, begging to be released.
So, I decided to wrap myself up, turn in the keys to the party and head home. Of course, isn’t that just when it happens?
Those were the first two words that Scott said to me. I ignored him. He called out to me again, and this time I stopped.
I gave him a Mardi Gras kiss and he told me he had to go down the street to another bar with his friends, but he would come back to find me in just a minute. I had heard this story so many times before, but something, something inside of me remembered what I had just promised myself, and I snatched off my pinky ring, slipped it onto his finger and told him:
“Now you have to come back, that’s my favorite ring I just gave you.”
“I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.”
Ninety minutes later I was standing there, no ring, no Scott and all of my friends telling me how stupid I was to ‘give that boy your ring.”
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, but it’s easier to find a three legged whore in a convent than it is to locate someone in that sea of people. But I jumped in and walked right up behind him and demanded that he give me my ring back. He turned around and told me:
“No. Now you have to stay with me.”
And I have.