This post is way past due. I don’t really reflect on my time in NOLA. The memory of my time there has been darkened. I will share what I do remember.
I do remember rows of houses painted in beautiful colors of coral pinks, raspberry reds, aqua blues and canary yellows. I remember Bourbon street with a stench so ripe and thick it seemed to crawl up my legs as I walked with a crowd of people who sipped bright green liquor from fish bowls, red faced and laughing as they gawked at side shows of bare backed black boys clapping and tapping out of rhythm smiling for donations with sweat dripping down their skinny torsos. I remember a heat I ain’t never felt before. I remember stepping out of air conditioned buildings and having my breath snatched away from the force of it. I remember feeling sweat trickle from the small of my back and build in-between my thighs. I remember a friend asking, “Can you imagine picking cotton in this heat? Or cutting sugarcane?”
I remember the food. I remember it being delicious but that’s not important to me. To mention the food in New Orleans feels cliche and easy. What’s more important were the the folks who took my order and brought food to my table. These were genuine people with warm smiles and deep laughs. They were women who fussed over my well being asking over three times in a span of a half hour, “How ya’ll doing? Ya’ll alright?”
Or women who silently expressed their helplessness with the twist of their lips and raised eyebrows as I sat at a table with an empty water glass watching as these women ran in circles taking orders, wiping tables and dropping heaping plates of soul food in front of patiently waiting customers. I couldn’t be mad at ’em. I loved them. They felt like family.
I remember a large, heavy set black man with beads of sweat on his forehead waddle to my table with my first catfish po’boy from New Orleans. He approached my table with a stained apron. The plate which he held looked like a child’s play dish in his large lined hands.
“Who got a cat fish po’boy?”
I raised my hand and with grace he set down the plate. All the Northerners at the table squealed with delight as he put the huge fried fish sandwich before me. His sheepish smile revealed four gold teeth as his shoulders shook with a chuckle. He seemed so soft. So kind. So innocent.
I remember leaving New Orleans feeling good. I remember flying home. I remember the morning I scrolled instagram and watched the murder of Alton Sterling. I remember watching the pixelated pool of blood spread across his white t-shirt on my phone. I remember sinking to the floor next to my bed, shaking my head saying “No, no, no.” I remember seeing his picture on the news. He looked back at me heavy set and smiling with two gold front teeth. I remember feeling like I lost a family member. He felt so familiar. So innocent.
I know, I know, it’s Mexican BUT it was so good and the restaurant Casa Borrega was sooooooo beautiful!
The restaurant owner and newly made friend Hugo Montero (artist)