I made it out of New Orleans. Three years to the day after I moved there, I'm now fully moved out. Leaving has left me with an unidentifyable but intense crushed feeling.
The drive to Tennessee was hard on me. I felt nothing but numbness as my father (who was assisting me with the move) and I drove through the city. I stared out the window of his truck the whole way, remembering various little things that happened months or years previous at the places we were passing.
Driving on I-10 over Tulane Avenue brought me back to going to Tulane Medical to deal with the physical side of my gender issues early last year. Bumping over the bridge connecting New Orleans and New Orleans East reminded me of driving back from a house in the East with Anna Lisa, after we bought some ecstasy during one of her visits. My last look at the brown, bubbling Mississippi River, and of the CBD from a distance.
Around the Pearl River turnaround exit on I-59, on the North Shore, just shy of the state line, I started feeling a ridiculous lump in my throat, and my voice seized up. My dad was driving, so I eked out a request to stop at the Mississippi Welcome Center rest stop, because I needed "a cigarette and a moment of solitude." The crushing feeling intensified as I watched the "Welcome to Mississippi" sign coast by on the right. Finally the rest stop came into view, and my dad exited there, as requested. Before he'd even stopped the truck, I'd thrown open the passenger side door and was making a run for the woods that bordered the rest stop. About halfway there I could compose myself no longer, and I started crying, even as I ran. I stopped running and crossed a small foot bridge going over a man-made stream. There, I sat down hard and cried, long and wetly. Between sobs I lit up a cigarette and dragged on it deeply. I sat on the foot bridge with my knees drawn up to my chest, head in hands, eyes producing man-made rivers of their own, making a small tributary out of my clavicle.
I couldn't contain it. All the shit that happened to me over the course of the previous three years all came down on me at the same time as I sat there, smoking and crying, looking like a wrecked house, at the damned Mississippi Welcome Center. My relationship with Michelle, which started out good and ended in extreme, unexplained rejection just after our marriage. Anna Lisa talking me out of gender switching, dating me for a while and then dumping me, apropos of nothing (to say nothing of the stress that attempting to become a transsexual brought). Strained personal relationships with roommates. Empty, frequent sex with a different girl I never even really got to like, much less got to know. Being poor. Listening to an endless line of next-door neighbours fight through the walls. The city towing my car and then demanding $2000 for unpaid parking tickets before they'd give it back. Unending debt, along with being dicked out of $4000 by a former employer. A year and a half of reclusiveness, broken only occasionally by going out and having a horrible time. Sitting on a stoop in the CBD with my friend Melanie, both of us crying our eyes out for all we'd lost since moving to New Orleans.
It was all there, and each tear represented life driving a spike into my brain, and they kept coming. The tears burned as they rolled down my face and moistened my shirt. A half an hour and ten cigarettes later, I went back to the parking lot, where my dad was double-checking the trailer attachment for the umpteenth time. He didn't look me in the eyes; I assume he realized what I was doing out there. If he had, he'd have seen my eyes bloodshot and puffy, my cheeks tear-stained and slick, and my mouth twisted into a awful rictus. I climbed back into the truck, and my dad followed.
Without a word, New Orleans was growing further and further behind me, becoming more of a speck on a map of the southern United States than a part of my life.
I can still feel its hooks, but they've been there so long that I'm numb where they pierce my skin.
I'll miss you.