By the time I sat down, my entire back was soaked and my little silk button up dress, the one where the buttons just start unbuttoning as I walk, was stuck to me like I was stuck to this. Mesmerized by the way he swirled the cup with the coaster on top. The way he said darling. Not this right now but this then. This first taste of heat in New Orleans, the swelter of 3 pm and me, just drenched and begging for air conditioner and this swamp city’s revenge. Even then, I had only two concerns: us and them. In front of me, he picked up the tea cup to show me the leaves and I was out of my depth completely but trusted his eyes. Kind, soft, a mellow green and shining.
“Oh wow, this looks real good. Real good, honey. Oh yeah.”
He could have said anything in that accent. Honestly. I have mimicked it many times. And to keep me out of that oppressive heat for one more minute, I would have paid for one more hour. There was a cool glass of water next to him and I watched the sides condense and licked my lips regretting denying the second water bottle. Having to urinate now, but enraptured and barely having a sense of what he was really saying, I just fidgeted like usual. He was recording it.
“Well, darling,” he began in his thick southern accent. “You are just the luckiest thing, aren’t you?.”
When I meet readers, I try to keep my face still and not glint that they are right. You have to test them. However, this was July 2016 and I was healthy, free, still young and there had been no promise of a new dictator yet. I smiled big, wide, like even though he had said nothing, the clock began ticking.
“Oh, there will always be a job for you. People just hand you things. Nothing to worry about there. Nothing at all. Oh, this is looking good!” he squealed.
This was before anything hit. This was when I was tan all the time from walking and my hair was too long and glued to my neck and I was gay and in love and dreaming of a woman. This is when I was playing Pokemon Go. This is when I was not informed of ritual but mired in the emergence of it regardless. This was before. Anything. My thighs were red from sun and hurt when I pinched them to keep from moving. I smiled.
“Do you want children?” he asked.
This was before. This was before.
“I’m not sure.”
But what I really meant was that I don’t always have the poignance to explain what it means when I can’t honestly say no but I know what happens when I try to say yes, and it’s immense. The dissonance in feeling and action. Wanting and then reneging. Or pursuing but knowing it’s vanity. It’s better to waft then make demands of men. This was before. Before I began to follow them, I once asked a cup of tea if I might be the luckiest woman alive. Before I chased their cologne around alleyways and into the corners, I once consulted the occult to show me if I’m playing the right cards. Before I entered their brownstones draped in black turtleneck and a very calm virile, I hedged my bets. Before I met you, a reader once said our hands would shake, like not a greeting but an uncontrollable tic and our eyes would meet and it would be known. Before I followed the men, I only stared back at one to melt like the skin of my back today in the plastic chair in the silk dress that is becoming unbuttoned as we speak. Before I followed the men, I wrapped my thighs in garter and letter opener and knives.
I always lift my skirt to show them the left leg with the letter opener rather than the right one with knife.
“You ain’t got a thing to worry about darling. Not at all. Like a cat you always land on your feet. You have nine lives.”
“The woman who followed the men”