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How Nicole Hit Her Head, or, a Very Tumultous Weekend, or, The Saga of our Birthdays, or Looking Nice with Open Wounds, or How Hard it is to Write an Honors Thesis Sometimes on a Friday Morning



On Monday, typing travel reimbursement memos, my hip still throbbed, though the bruise didn't appear until Wednesday, ugly purple, bigger than my fist. With the dictation headphones in and my hair still matted with blood I felt silly and Fight Club, like typing haikus on company time and abusing my copier privileges.

on Sunday the weather was nice so I wore red, white, and blue.
At the Holi festival behind the cafeteria revellers splashed pink dye all over me, so I had to go hoe and change.
In the sun it was seventy five so I wore a sundresses with white flowers embroidered across the chest, and we biked to the Bayou St. John. Going down the hill on Jeff Davis in the sunshine I let the freewheel spin and raised my arms in the sun, watched the trees against the blue sky and felt that one moment of perfection you only get going downhill on a bike on a sunny day.
At the bayou, even in the sun, the breeze coming off the water made goosebumps raise on our arms, and we huddled around the pot where crawfish were boiled alive, warming ourselves on the steam. When we gave up and went home I stepped in the shower, getting my hair wet but not washing it, feeling the steam around my own skin. I've never left a party only to shower and return but we did return, in jeans and sweatshirts. It was dark on the bayou and we clustered around the table greedily fumbling with carapaces and tails that we couldn't see. The boys became giddy, setting off bottle rockets, agitating the dogs.
I got into a boat with my boyfriend when the water was still. Our oars made silk-fabric ripples in the water and we rowed under the footbridge, ducking low, hearing it creak over our heads. The bridge, strung in Christmas lights, mirrored perfectly in the water. "I'm going to remember this for a long time," he said. I want to. I watched the cars go by on Esplanade from a boat, dipped my fingers into the water. It was warm.

on Thursday I didn't go to see the Two Gentlemen of Verona like I said I would. I age meager pasta provided with the best intentions in a student lounge at the Tulane School of Medicine, talked to a friend about my job, his former job. They showed us the robot dummies where the medical students practiced delivering robot babies, putting in a central line, injecting intravenously. Everyone said they loved the school.
I told another student that I was writing a thesis on time travel and he looked at me, awed, and said "You're a keeper."
I drove home listening to Johnny Flynn along Claiborne, so close to the Superdome you could see the individual lights around the edge as they change color.

on Friday I went to Thesis Fridays alone, mixed jasmine and peppermint tea, made sure the protaganist knew she was her own mother. Time travel problems.
I left at eleven thirty to attend a lecture on the role of neonatal testosterone in prepubertal impulsivity. I wore a red halter dress, my shoulders feeling very exposed, my hair down. Through the lecture I was nervous, butterflies and goosebumps.
After the lecture I went to Cafe Freret to have lunch with my ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend. We talked about theatre, television, and time travel. Going home I tried not to think certain things. I kept thinking of how nice she was, how easy it is to be taken advantage of when hyou are nice. All week before I'd been dreading the meeting, what we would say. "When I knew him, he was a depressed, alcoholic, suicidal, manipulative, mean person," I'd practiced saying, in my head. "I hope he's changed." I didn't say any of those things. We sat at the table long after we ate, our conversation punctuated by silence.
Friday afternoon I went to bike help desk, put on a new bike saddle, rode around campus in the sunshine. While Grimes played I put my brass bell on my stem, watched from the back of the stage her hood fill out in the wind. That night at the levee there were four bonfires. In the woods was a large canvas washed up by the river, covering something the same size as a man, with his head leaned forward as if in sleep. My search for firewood turned up only trash, everything turned gray by the moon. I walked near it only slowly, at first thinking it was a hobo in a sleeping bag, then—when it did not move—a body. I didn’t touch the canvas to find out.
Around the campfire I went with the only people I knew, only to find them high on acid. Smoke blew into my face, making me cough.
A hobo, drinking Artem’s mezcal, approached us. “I wanna sit by the chicks,” he said. “I ain’t tryin to look cool,” he said. “I’m 36, and a hobo, hoppin freight trains and stuff.” His other friend, also a hobo, said goddamn in an accent that reminded me of home.
Those drunken boys who tried to climb the bridges fell into the Mississippi. ”You aren’t an alcoholic until you graduate,” the girl sitting next to me said.
At the liquor store I sepnt twenty seven dollars and seventy three cents on alcohol, and drank none. I only wanted the cork to plug the ends of the handlebars on my bicycle.
In the woods I found no firewood.
Sitting around the campfire I thought of Kelsey’s front porch, about being miserable in fancy clothes, about doing what other people want, about the very isolating feeling of drinking only water and watching those around you become intoxicated.
The clouds were orange from reflected sodium streetlights and the moon was half full, half empty.
We climbed atop an abandoned yellow platform that shook with our movements, by a ladder set at a 30 degree angle, tilted away from the body.
I went to the woods alone. I did not go home. I did not pull aside that canvas to reveal whether underneath was rotting flesh or just logs.

on Saturday night I went to an Everything is Terrible movie with Bailey, called Doggie Woggiez! Poochie Woochiez! I ordered and drank a Goya Ginger beer that burned my nose and throat. Three men dressed as dogs did exaggerated comedy. The movie was an hour and a half of found footage of dogs, each clip less than twenty seconds. I didn't understand the humor. I fell asleep to dog jobs and woke to ghost dogs, unaware of how much time had passed.
Leaving the threater two of the dog-men said "Goodbye!" to us for a good two minutes as we walked back to the car.
Saturday afternoon, at Plan B, we fixed a bent crankset, discoveerd a bent frame, bent it back using a vice. A man with a cigarette in his mouth said: "This is way hillbilly," holding the frame while we clamped down the vice. That night Braden put together his new bike before we left.
At midnight, the brand new Sunday, I went to Snake and Jake's with Bailey. "Are you happy? How is your relationship?" she asked me. I am.
We walked the three blocks home at 2am, after ditching the bar because a man with a coffeepot kept talking to use. Five blocks away, at Pine and Maple, two students were mugged at gunpoint, shoved to the ground and hit. We didn't know. We drove to the store for cigarettes, came home in ignorance. I took Nyquil to stop the coughing at three and fell asleep in my underwear.

on Sunday night Braden was excited about his new bike. "He was biking like an asshole," I told Bailey later, holding a gauze pad to my head in the front seat, shaking. His new bike is faster than mine and he, giddy with fireworks, crawfish, and beer, wanted to bike fast, take sharp corners, beat cars at stoplights, not wait for me. I caught up to him on Jeff Davis as he was fumbling with a light, not paying attention to me. While reaching around for the light he swerved in front of me, knocking my bike towards some cars. I backpedaled, used to a fixed gear, unable to find the brake, and landed with my left hip and the left side of my head on the road. "Are you okay? Are you okay?" he kept asking, over and over. "My head," I was screaming, clutching it. "My head, my head--"
Two med students in the car behind us stopped and ran over to help. I kept thinking how important it was to be lucid, to not cry, to be sane. "Where do you go to school?" I asked and upon learning it was LSU joked: "Oh, I work there. Let's just meet in the cafeteria next time," with blood still running into my hair. I sat down on the curb to avoid throwing up. Braden put his jacket against my head to try to stop the bleeding.
Jake and Sarah's house was only two blocks away so they drove to come get us. In their kitchen Sarah washed my head with the sprayer on the sink, running warm water over my scalp. "Do you want me to stop being nice to you?" she asked. "I know if I'm hurt an people are nice to me I just start crying." In the kitchen, after everyone had left, I just started crying, holding a brown towel to my face.
At home my rooommates fussed over me and washed my hair, Chelsea pouring hot water over the right side of my scalp, Bailey applying peroxide, neosporin, and bandages to the skinned patch on my left elbow and palm.
In bed, shaking, I piled blankets around myself, sobbing intermittently. My eyes remained undialated, my head pain local. I remain unconcussed.

on Monday I woke with blood matted on my hair, on the right side, and afraid to touch my scalp I washed the ends, the water running brown against the white porcelain sink, and then drove to work. My boss noticed my limp. "But you were wearing your helmet and gloves," he said. "Yes," I said, my left hand bandaged, blood still dry against my scalp. My helmet was in a gift-wrapped box on the bookshelf, waiting for my Wednesday birthday.
At home I put on a dress I'd never worn before, from my wife, in liquor-gray-brown satin that had a large bow over my chest and fell to my ankles. I biked to work that afternoon very slowly, unable to put a helmet on over the knot on my left side. 
At work we prepared for a reading by Jonathan Franzen. I walked around the quad in the sunshine in sandals and that long dress, holding yard signs to direct people to the event, walking slowly. At the reception I told the two people sitting next to me, Zach and Evian, about the accident, but didn't mention it to my boss. No one noticed the matted blood in my hair.
The reading was funny, and Franzen signed my book "To Nicole: Happy Birthday."

on Tuesday it was Braden's birthday. We ate biscuits cut out in the shape of men for breakfast, spread them with raspberry jam. That night I bought bread and made sandwiches on twelve-grain bread with raspberry jam and nutella. We tried to bar crawl but tuesday night defeated our compatriots. At Parasol's, eating the orange slice out of my old fashioned, sitting next to me, he repeated: "No one came to my birthday party." Outside the bar, sitting on the sidewalk, we fixed a flat tire and our friend met us. At the next bar they were doing Pub Trivia, the Princess category, and I knew all the answers. I ordered To Die For Fries, with bechemel sauce and green onions, and it felt like eating french fried pasta. At Cassidy's house, at midnight on the new Wednesday, March the 7th, he gave me a Tree of Life tarot reading for my birthday while Braden slept on the couch. My significator was the Page of Cups, and the first card he laid down, the top of my spiritual triangle, was the Star. My intellectual triangle was entirely inverted, everything holding me back. Inverted in my emotional triangle was the World. I thought over and over of Pynchon, of Blicero:
His future card, the card of what will come, is The World.


on Wednesday it was my birthday. I ate Life cereal with strawberries and half a grapefruit, went to work late, skipped work all afternoon to go to the zoo with Braden and Carrie. Wearing my purple dress, I smiled at the flamingoes, the elphants, the tigers, the lions, the orangutans. It was sunny, and I wore my favorite shoes.
In the sunshine, watching the animals, everything was wonderful.
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raining here in New Orleans; I could be doing homework but am instead choosing to sit around being surly and looking at mixtes on the internet. Just got back from a long-car-trip Thanksgiving (~12 hours in a car each way NOLA to KY) and thus am craving bike rides. Since it’s raining and blah outside this means not so much riding my bike (after all, the aforementioned homework) as reading bike blogs. 

I had my last med school interview while I was at home, at the University of Kentucky, in the rain. It’s a good school with a huge brand-new hospital. Classes only last from eight to noon your first two years so you have afternoons to study. The girl next to me was wearing a navy blue pinstripe suit and had a Bumpits in her hair. When we left the girl I walked out with said: “I can’t wait go to home and put on sweatpants.” I stood on S. Limestone in the rain in my black pencil skirt and black blazer with a rainbow umbrella and put my heels on a pink X that was spray-painted on the sidewalk. A house on the street had thick leaves all over their yard, and for some reason the red, orange, and brown against the green looked extra saturated in the lack of other colors, the asphalt, the sidewalk. 

I felt disappointed. 

My boyfriend’s second-choice school is going back home to Oregon, to have to live in Portland and go to Portland State. You know, a city, where everyone rides bicycles, and there are cute things everywhere and all kinds of mid-twenties hipsters doing whatever makes their little artsy hearts happy. There are good and bad sides to this, of course, but I am tired of trying to be objective about this: living in a rural area is pretty terrible. I know. I did it for eighteen years. You’re isolated, you don’t have a lot of friends and none that live close to you, you entertain yourself, you shop at department stores in suburbs you have to drive an hour to get to and you feel dazzled by the selection when you get there. Eating at Red Lobster is exotic because it’s expensive and seafood and you don’t live anywhere near the ocean and for that matter, you don’t live anywhere near the Red Lobster, either.  Maybe once a month you go to the movies. You go to work and come home every night and watch television, because there’s nothing else going on anyway. The center of your social life is your church, or work if you’re lucky to be working with other people you like/get along with. 

It’s not what I want anymore. I’m tired of being okay with it.  I am jealous of my friends—what, that ridiculous 70% of that Tulane population, and 99% of my friends—that went to private school. I didn’t. I didn’t get special attention; there was none to be had. I did the best with what I could. I am jealous of my friends who were from big cities, who had drama departments and art departments at their schools, who had neighbors they could go visit, and small theatres and local bakeries and restaurants and parties and bicycles and new bookstores and used bookstores and record stores and art galleries and coffeeshops. We don’t. I never did. 

I’ve been struggling all through college not to be bitter about it, but I am. I dated someone who made fun of how uncultured I was, who looked down on me and was embarrassed to go to nice restaurants with me because I couldn’t pronounce the names of food. I AM UNCULTURED. Everything I know about culture I had to learn myself from the internet. I didn’t have it growing up. I still can’t eat rice with chopsticks and feel stupid and embarrassed when I inevitably drop it all over myself trying. I don’t know how to order sushi, I never ate sushi until I came to college. I don’t know what wines go with what foods because they aren’t even legally allowed to sell alcohol where I live. I’ve never seen a Shakespeare play performed, where would I have? I’ve never seen a ballet, or an opera. My written vocabulary is much, much greater than my spoken vocabulary and I pronounce words wrong. I’ve only read them, after all.

Which is what I did have, really. I read everything. I still read everything someone hands me, everything I get my hands on, I read indiscriminately and don’t buy books unless I’ve already read them. And that was fine for eighteen years (probably more like sixteen). But it’s not fine anymore, and I don’t want to go back, and I don’t want to get used to it again, and I want to do things with my life. 

It is disappointing. Kentucky loves to dress down. If you can wear sweatpants and a tshirt you do. In high school I wore jeans everyday; I sometimes wanted to wear a skirt, but felt embarrassed when I did, like I stuck out in the hallways because no one else was. They still don’t. It’s like daily life isn’t worth getting dressed up for, isn’t really worth putting in a lot of effort. And in the rain and grey of Lexington, waiting on the side of the road in uncomfortable shoes, watching all the people in their cars and no one smiling, it seemed all more depressing than I could stand.  
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Yesterday I finished my new handlebar bag/purse after 10+ hours of sewing. Made it on our bike ride to Winn Dixie with light bulb + 1lb bttr + tin foil, and then Zotz with camera + notebook + wallet + cell phone + ipod (purse essentials) and Mason & Dixon besides (which is quite impressive). It needs some structural support to keep it from sagging and some reinforcement on the D rings but overall I am really pleased and proud.

Have some pictures--

Purses are really detail oriented and this one is no exception. It's got a plastic inside liner sewn into the bottom and a removable one at the back to give it support, as well as one in the flap. The outside is black vinyl and the inside is red cotton canvas, with two pockets on the front inside as well as the pocket for the removable back liner. Front flap has a snap, which is cute on a purse but as a handlebar bag it really needs a strap from the flap to the back to stop it from sagging forward. (I have since this picture trimmed the plastic and pinned it in place.)
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You can also attach a strap to the D-rings on the side. They were out of strap material and hooks at Hancock Fabrics so currently I'm using a strap from a different purse. Eventually I'll update to a matching strap of the same fabric. Right now the D rings just have a 3inch strip of fabric sewing them to the purse and I'm really afraid it's not enough support, so will probably update it later.

I've been planning this for a while and looking at various handlebar bags. My favorite was this one from Acorn, but it's still more handlebar bag-ey and not very pursey, so ultimately I just made a purse with two big straps on the back. My directions for sewing a handlebar bag: get a purse that will hold its shape well and has a removable shoulder strap, and sew two big pieces of webbing with velcro on them to the back to go over your handlebars.

This is a purse-replacement that conveniently goes on my handlebars, not a touring bag. It won't hold a U-lock, doesn't have a map pocket or back pockets or any outside pockets. That being said, it is the right size to fit perfectly on my new drop bars and hangs down just enough to fit stuff and not hit a tire, and I am not using a decaleur. It is something I wanted to make and after two long days of work I have made it! It is not quite done yet but it is still a useful & pretty thing I have made with my hands and I am really pleased.

Also you may note my new drop bars (unwrapped), as well as my new pedals and straps, which are from Plan B ($5), MKS Stream Platform Pedals (~$25), and PowerGrips respectively. The dude, who is sweet and nice and amazing, ordered some cloth tape from Rivendell for our handlebars which will come in this week and also be nice for not gripping metal as I've been doing all week. I've been going much slower than usual--last Thursday I got and installed drop bars and took out my back brake, and Friday put on new pedals with foot retention, and this week it's been like learning to ride a bike all over again. One brake! Weird handlebars! My feet are somehow stuck to the pedals! I almost got hit by a taxi (the cyclists' worst enemy) in the French Quarter but other than that it's only been slow fall-overs.

The only problem is that my bike setup now includes an unfortunate amount of toe overlap. Like, a lot, like making a slow left turn (not even a U-turn) makes my feet hit the pedals. This is very frustrating and I have already crashed once because of it. Between pedal strike and toe overlap I can really only ride in a straight line. I guess if I wanted to go back to freewheel I could get rid of the pedal strike but no matter what I am stuck with the toe overlap. Okay bicycle, I get it, you only want to go in straight lines forever.

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biiiiiiiiicycles. Here is the History Official between me & my bicycle---

I had a bike. it was a sad chain-superstore-bike my grandparents got me and I rode it around occassionally the first two years of college. when I moved off campus I had to ride it more often and unsurprisingly it got stolen (as it had a terrible lock). I was not super sad about this because I was never very attached to this bicycle. It was red. 

I did not buy a new bicycle right away. I had a bunch of friends in the Tulane Benevolent Societyfor the Propagation of Assorted Tomfoolery and Other Sorts of Peculiar and Otherwise Absurd and Baffling Nonsense (really guys? is that your only website? that and a facebook group? And Phil Schapker is still listed as your contact?), also known as the Juggling Club, who are also in charge of bicycles at Tulane. I don't know why either. They just decided. There is an official Tulane Cycling Club, for people with carbon-fiber bikes and racing uniforms and sporty racing things, and we make fun of them and joke about chasing them around and beating them with our U-locks. I say we. I have staunchly denied being a member of the Juggling Club at every meeting I attend and I still say we. Sigh. 

Anyway, for some reason the Juggling Club runs the bike help desk. TUPD confiscates all bikes left on campus over summer, and they gave them to juggling club, who rented them out. So for $30 I rented a bike for the semester from my friend Phill (now the Tallest Man in Cambodia) and rode around a cruiser, a High Flyer, spray painted this awful shade of green with white stripes (thanks Juggling Club), until I got hit by a car at Thanksgiving. I was thus bicycleless for the rest of the semester. 
 
At this point in my life I knew three things:
a.) I wanted another bicycle
b.) I wanted it to be sparkly gold. 
 
To be clear. In March, just after Mardi Gras, I bought another bicycle--the lovely, lovely Torker U-District, from Gerken's Bike Shop on St. Claude. It is a lovely bicycle and I love riding it but it is not gold and sparkly. SOMEDAY, when this one wears out, or I buy an older cruiser with a bad paint job off Craigslist, I will sand it down and take some outdoor vinyl from my mother's graphic design shop and I WILL HAVE A SPARKLY GOLD BIKE. I just need to get this off my chest now. 
 
the Torker is a great bike but it is not perfect. It has several perfect features, liiiiike--
a flip flop hub. I did not know what this was when I bought the bike. In fact when I bought this bicycle I knew nothing about bicycles! Almost nothing!  I have three friends who are very knowledgeable about bicycles (aforementioned Phil & two others) and a significant other who is slightly more knowledgeable than I. By our powers combined....
 
New Orleans is a city full of bicycle commuters, and in the parts of it I bicycle through there's a really strong DIY attitude about bikes. I had a weekly standing date at Plan B, for example, the free bicycle clinic that I highly recommend you go to all the time ever just in case your bicycle might ever need anything. (I may write them up later more extensively). This means you learn a lot about bicycles and how to fix them when they are broken pretty quickly. If you can't change your own tube when you get a flat you cannot really survive in this city, much less bike over Jeff Davis. 
 
So I learned about my flip-flop hub quickly. In short, a flip-flop hub has room for gears on both sides. In my case, I have a 16-tooth single-speed freewheel on one side, which is the typical pedal-and-coast thing, and a 16-tooth fixed gear on the other. 
 
I am not nearly cool enough to ride fixie and I do anyway. My trackstands are abysmally short-lived. I am working on it. By the end of summer I'll try to get them down. (breaking my ankle kind of stopped all the practicing I was gonna do in june & july.)  My bicycling long-term goal is to ride to the beach, camp overnight, and ride back. 

I love this bicycle but I  am doing some things to it, which I'll tell you more about once I do them. With my first real paycheck of the summer I got myself a back rack and am soon ordering some straps for my pedals (please ride strapped/clipped in on fixies, it is much safer. Do not do what I did and ride around for three months without them), and eventually going from straight to drop bars. Sometime in August. 
 
and someday. Someday. Someday, I will have a gold bicycle. 
 
 
 
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A lot of my blogging has gotten less personal than it used to be. I’ve been keeping a blog since I was thirteen and started exploring the internet, leaving my messy stamp all over it for eight years now. If you see an abigail-nicole on any website, there’s a high chance it’s me. And while I never resist the urge to throw parts of my life out over the internet the parts I share have been getting smaller and smaller.

I’m Nicole. I write fiction. I review books. I sew, and knit, and quilt (once, a performance that has yet to be repeated). I’m 21 years old, 5’9” and 140 lbs, brunette, top-heavy. I really love being an adult. I don’t watch cable television and I don’t often see films in theatres. I peer into microscopes, I bake, I do a little bit of cooking (mostly my significant other does that now, he’s better at it than I). I’m lactose intolerant and love organic chemistry. I bicycle around, usually for fun, but seriously for about eight months now. I’m applying to medical school, I am graduating college, I am living in New Orleans and I am from a small town in Kentucky and I don’t know what’s going to happen in my life.

I like oversharing. Usually I only blog when I’m bored (because writing about yourself is a flattering distraction) or busy (because it’s a form of procrastination), but I’m going to try to do a better job this semester. As a result, expect to read a lot about biochemistry, statistics, Thomas Pynchon, Tulane University, virology & ophthalmology, baking, bicycle commuting, living in New Orleans, and generally being in college. I like talking to other people and hearing about their lives and I use the internet just as often for “tell me about _______” as I do for anything else, so sometimes I will write “tell me about _____” posts as well as photos, fiction, essays, thoughts, general journal entries, etc.

I am online mostly at twitter, tumbr, livejournal, dreamwidth, facebook, google+, ravelry, and last.fm. Feel free to friend me here, and if you see an abigail-nicole lurking around other websites, feel free to pick me up there as well. and always, thank you for everything.
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April 9th. My first real bike ride to the french quarter with my new bike and we went all the way across the bridge to sit on the levee in the ninth ward. I rode with Braden and Erik and we passed graffiti that said

I LOVE YOU
YOU ARE EVERYTHING GOOD
IN THE WORLD

spray-painted on the side of an old brick building. They ride faster than me and I yelled it at them, reaching my hands forward over my handlebars. At the levee Erik read poetry from The Hour Between Dog and Wolf. On Esplanade we sat outside a convenience store and ate a Hubig's, drank beer and coconut juice, orange soda.
At the river there was one of the wide, lit-up boats with a red paddlewheel, and the music was jazz projected all the way across the Mississippi river water to where we sat on the rocks. I stepped from rock to rock, the wind blowing back my skirt and hair. The wind was warm, like an embrace.
Outside the convenience store two people were riding a tandem bicycle built to look like a banana and an old woman muttered "BYWATER KIDS" as she passed. When the pie was through we walked down to Washington Square. I made Erik hold my beer so I could go play on the swing set. Eventually he drank it. A little girl came to me and told me she was three. "Do you want my swing?" I asked her and she said yes so I gave it to her, hoisted her into that lopsided duct-taped piece of plastic held together with rusty chain, and pushed her. On Frenchman they were filming a movie.
Riding down St. Claude through the eighth ward everything smelled like fried food and that scent of summer. When my tires went over the fine metal mesh of the St. Claude bridge, I could see the water below. The lights began to blink and after we had passed they rose the bridge so a boat could pass through the space where only moments earlier our bicycles were, our bodies were. When I bought whiskey the woman at the counter asked me how I was feeling, smiled, told me to have a nice night. I did. The wind at the levee alternated warm and cold, leaving ripples of goosebumps across my damp, sticky skin. The lights of the business district on the water were beautiful and the riverboat passed slowly by, a blur of light in my camera across all that dark water.
At the bike help desk we'd made a run for free food on the LBC quad, spooning the thick chocolate-chip-flavored-ice-cream into our mouths. I recognized the woman who fed me.
At the levee Erik offered me sips of whiskey, a pint of Jim Beam from a glass bottle. He held still while I photographed him.
I do not know about bicycles but I held parts while Phill worked, wiped bike grease on my green skirt.
In the humidity my hair escaped in small, curly tendrils that cling everfine to the curved skin on my neck.
On the way back down St. Claude we stopped at Hank's, got four pieces of fried catfish, a peach pie, and an orange for four dollars and forty four cents, and ate on the stoop outside. I screamed when a cockroach crawled across my lap and Erik laughed at me. I ate the fish standing up, and it was warm and peppery on the inside of my mouth.
The light slipped behind the horizon.
On the back streets we rode fast, delighting in the feeling of wind across our shoulders.
When we stopped for coffee it was Erik's turn to recognize the woman who fed us. She gave us a cappuccino at a corner cafe in the Marigny and I ate the foam off the top with a spoon. The last time I was at this cafe was with JR, in his blue button-down and mirrored aviators, in the very miserable days when I was still in love. I did not recognize it until I was sitting at the same table, the same chair I was in one year ago. I am not her now.
In the French Quarter at night the sky is never dark, only the deep shade of navy they call "cerulean" in clothing magazines.
At Hank's on St. Claude a man came over to tell us stories about the country club, "bathing suits optional", and asked for a hook of Jim Beam. We gave it to him.
On the walls of the coffee shop the palm fronds looked like the legs of millipedes creeping across the gray siding.
At the levee when I took photographs only the sky is visible, all the rocks a line of blackness spreading diagonally through the frame. "This is the Ninth Ward," Erik said. "These are the levees that failed." Two young boys passed me, both on bicycles.
At the coffee shop we took the table without the umbrella and someone had left four brown cigarettes lying on the mesh-metal table. I put one in my purse, for luck, and Erik smoked one. There were fleur-de-lis spray painted on the trashcans. I skipped lunch and went to work instead.
This morning an anonymous person sent me flowers, to my work, and I engaged all my friends trying to figure out who it could be. I couldn't bike them home and left them, in water, in the bike shed. They were purple and white and wonderful. "Why? Because you're like a parfait: beautiful on many levels and everyone loves you," the typed card said. It was signed "Love," but the name was cut off.
At the river I could see stars, the old moon lying in the new moon's arms. "Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts," I said, eating catfish on the stoop of an abandoned house.
Outside the R-Bar, a man named Josh told me: "My sister's getting married tomorrow."
Women were drunkenly singing on Royal Street: "YOU LOVE US," they shouted. I do.
Three of the boys who have been pursuing me examined the card and the flowers, but none confessed. I received no phone calls or text messages until all the light had gone away.
Biking home the air was cool and Baronne was dark and soft. The wind pulled me back on my bicycle, warm and insistent, as if it were saying SLOW DOWN, SLOW DOWN. "It's okay, I know, I understand," I shouted to it. We took the cigarettes home, stuffed leftover bread into our mouths. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. I am grateful for this day.

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Nicole

March 2013

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