I arrived in August, on a gust of wind following a curtain of rain. I leave in August, after 16 years of joy and love, heat and heartache, and water, water, water. It’s a painful month; oppressive, dark, heavy. A month made of too humid hotel rooms, carpet damp from a leaking ac unit, stains and smells of former tenants clinging to ancient drapes.
But it’s always the month that changes everything. Sometimes through force, other times through necessity. August is the cumulative hangover of a year of drink, revelry, flooding, crime, dance, struggle, elation, and stagnation. It always happens now.
I’m leaving now because I have to leave now.
I came to New Orleans much the same way I am leaving it, full of hopeful aspirations and delusions of grandeur. I had an idea of a plan, but nothing concrete. I just went, hoping to figure it out as I went. I came back after Katrina because I knew I had unfinished business to tend to in my brain and heart. Struggling through such matters lead to a rekindling of an old flame: I began to write again.
I came back to this deep well of culture and history and beauty hoping to catch that ‘Streetcar named passion’ I’d been chasing for a decade. I would run after it, dramatically, in the rain, reaching for a window or handle to pull myself in, away from the elements, racing the night. I settled into the chase with food too rich for description, drinks too intoxicating for reason, and friendships too big to survive, all while scrapping history off the walls with my fingernails.
The personality of this city materializes in the humidity. You breathe it in and it sticks to your lungs, making you a carrier. Then you venture out to joyfully infect the next wave of visitors, spreading happiness across the world like patient zero. There is no place like it. There will never be a place like it. So many of us want so desperately to be home when we are here. But there’s no such thing as “home” if you are constantly chasing that damn streetcar. Eventually, you have to get on, sit down, and figure shit out.
Realizing what you are, and what you want, at your most heavily guarded core, is home. It slips on bunny slippers and wraps you in a fuzzy blanket while the wind howls and clouds darken. Writing is my cozy house. And I carry my new home close to my body. I protect it with tears and sacrifice and frustration. I need to build this home and fill it with books and art. I want to run through it’s hallways and grow a green garden.
It hurts to know that tomorrow night my bed will be under a cool, dry sky. In a place where Mardi Gras will be something that happens somewhere else. Where parades are not a daily occurrence. Where the sidewalks aren’t made with glitter and feathers. New Orleans will pull at my chest until the end. But it’s time to get my house in order.
I love you, New Orleans.
It’s not goodbye. It’s see ya later.