When I got back from talking with Sheri by the River, I saw the green Corolla
plates on it and knew I had missed him. He had left a message on my machine wondering where I was and I felt bad that I wasn't home to greet him; he got in a little earlier than I expected. His message said that he had walked to Canal and was heading back, to kill time
in the hopes that I would be here when he returned. I hate waiting for people; it's too nerve wracking
Byzantine had visited me once before, before he went off for Army training this summer, where he sent me letters detailing just how dull his training was, and how much he was looking forward to the fall, for school to start. This would be the last time I would likely see him for a while, since he goes to school in Oxford, which is about a 7 hour drive from here.
I had wanted to take him to Juan's Flying Burrito for dinner, but it was too late and they were closing, so we went to the Trolley Stop, which was open 24 hours. It was pretty much continuous talking from then on. I had forgotten how good conversations with him can be. He reads a lot more than I do and had interests that span the gambit. He speaks Russian and is a linguistics major, but is also an avid and upcoming computer geek. He plays violin. He attends a Greek Orthodox Church. We talked about the presence of television and internet access in the classroom and its impact on our students' literacy levels.
After dinner, we tried to have a beer at Molly's but I had forgotten in many ways that he was not yet 21, so we were asked to leave. So I bought us two Abita and we strolled through the Quarter on the way back to the car. Once back at my place, we ended up talking more until at least 4 in the morning. We turned off all the lights in my apartment, which is something I never do when I'm in it alone, and I was amazed at how dark it could get, how opaque. We talked like kids in a tent, camping in the backyard. He tried to get me to tell him a story, but I couldn't think of any. He sang a song he knew by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy called Lullabye (I think) and I tried to sing a song called Close Your Eyes by Jump Little Children. Eventually, we fell asleep.
The following morning, it was nearing 11 before we finally woke up. I knew that when the sun got overhead, my apartment would soon be intolerable, so I coaxed him back into the daylight with me, in search of breakfast. We drove out to the Denny's by where I work only to find that it was being renovated and was closed. I showed him where I worked on our way back into the city, the body shop and paint shop and parking lot. He had said that my occupation contrasted my personality, but I contested that it actually fostered a part of me that usually goes untriggered. Even here, I said, I work to teach people something, even if it's just about their cars.
We finally made it to Juan's for lunch, then to Rue De La Course for coffee. The goal was to stay indoors, to milk the public spaces of their AC until the sun went down again. This is what I do every weekend. Then we went to Contemporary Arts Center, a place I've always wanted to go to but never had anyone to go with. There was an exhibit of Sharaku's work dated from 1794 and among them were other artist's interpretations of his work. It made me wonder is this was how the Japanese saw themselves, much the way I wonder if Egyptians depicted themselves the way they really were. It didn't seem real. Some of the pieces were shaded and brightly painted that they almost jumped out from the frames. Upstairs there was a photographic exhibit, where Byzantine and I made fun of the lofty language these artists used to explain their works.
We came home so he could take a short nap before his long drive back to Oxford. We watched Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and ate Pop Ice. He took a bath, changed and left. He brought me an Army shirt that I had asked for, and it still smelled like him. I am wearing it now. He is a new but very good friend. We've had conversations that contained a level of ease and comfort that I never expected from someone I had only met in person months before, whose only correspondence with me were letters and drunken phone calls from the times when he and his other cadets were granted 48 hour leaves. And I was very glad to see him again. It made the weekend almost complete.