Jessica Eve Watkins
23rd November, 2014
Rusty train tracks through swampy bayou spirit land. Stray cats brushing legs on Frenchman Street. Wooden homes caving under the pull of fervent vines. I step out in a New Orleans night with four of the best people I know, all shining their vibrant lights full beam, and looking for love in the beat hide-outs of a tropical city. We are lipsticked and jaunty-hatted, smoking cigarettes in debonair coats pulled from the trunk of our car. It’s been twelve hours on the road to get here, riding a highway full of story and song, free and wakeful sunset watchers of the American south east.
Between the buskers we find a bar with a band singing toothy grinned saxophone blues; rock around and smoke indoors for a bit, while raunchy couples waltz their bodies into tight embraces. There’s a recklessness broken loose in this town, leading us uninhibited towards drink on Saint Claude Avenue; shouting our life stories at Texans over goth-punk shows; swapping grimy shirts and kisses with renegade players. It feels so liberating to let go.
Alligator spotting and men with gold teeth and dead eyes. Bare legs and apple sharing and yet more parking tickets. Wood-stump leaning in this whisky shot plastic cup wasteful wandering lustful city. Shadow figures of voodoo witch doctors and ruined girls. Creeping crawling nightbirds and a silhouetted Mary, fifty feet over us like a watchful omen.
The drinking and dancing continue for three nights. I guess we needed it. When it’s done, we crash out in a cat-littered caravan in the Lower Ninth Ward, amongst the re-generated houses and prickly plots of land. I feel lost and merry and a bit sick to death of this nomadic life of mine.
I feel caught between coming from the right side of the tracks and living like a hobo. A Welsh girl in the deep south, many thousands of miles from home. I wonder how my grandma must feel about my life. The reckless freedom of my choices are so indulgent and wild in comparison to her own. I appreciate it all with the holiness of gratitude, and try never to take it for granted, though I do all the time. The breathtaking moments I have been handed in the last few days read like gifts from the earth, placed directly into my palms.
I can’t believe I get to be here in New Orleans eating fried green tomatoes in the sunshine. When it’s time to say goodbye to the city, we drop our friend Johnny off on Lizardi St and his beautiful blue eyes are swimming in tears. So much vibrance and love to remember, like a splash in our winter days when the cold creeps back in up north.