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It was a year ago today Marlene and I became lj friends. I’d seen a birthday message on my friend Jeff's journal to her and seeing her name was japanesedream I was inspired to send her a link to a song I had - Birthday Cake by Cibo Matto.


I wasn’t sure if she’d even notice it, but she did, loved it, and we’ve been lj friends ever since. Funny how life works sometimes, isn't it?

But that was not the first time we'd really met, and I decided to share the secret with whomever happens to read this post on this special (to me) day. I hope she doesn't mind.

It was August of ‘91, as I recall, a hot and steamy night in New Orleans, made more so because we’d had just enough rain that afternoon to turn what was simply a sultry weekend into a full-fledged sauna.

I’d just hitch-hiked to The Hummingbird Bar and Grill on St. Charles Avenue, the skid row section, for a 2 a.m. breakfast of eggs, pork chops, and hash browns and enough coffee to keep me awake and hopefully get me home safely.

I'd hitch-hiked because I’d been out with a couple of friends who'd abandoned me. I had just won the final game of pool (free beer for the rest of the night) with a three cushion bank shot setting off a chain of events I have never regretted.

My friend Bernard was already pretty drunk and had a hard time keeping up. I caught him pouring his beer into a potted plant in the reflection of the window facing Decatur Street and got on him pretty good.

After I called him on it a third time, he flew into a rage and sucker-punched me on the side of my jaw. As I picked myself off the floor he told our mutual friend Arnie he was leaving, and they both left me there to get home the best way I could. I was angry but suddenly hungry as I tried to think of what to do. The Hummingbird was near the on-ramp to the Crescent City Connection so there I went.

I can tell you honestly upon first impression, Marlene was not a pretty sight. She was pretty enough with her fair skin and black eyelashes, thick brown hair that hung heavy on her shoulders, made even heavier by the greasy haze that tended to settle on you inside the smokey confines of The Hummingbird, but just kind of sad and a little stressed out.

She reeked of Jungle Gardenia too, which I found out she bought by the pint to offset the smell of the bacon, sausage, fried chicken, and cigarette smoke that clung to her hair and clothes like a jealous girlfriend.

I guess I was no prize either as my jaw had started to swell on one side and I smelled of beer and hot boudin which I later discovered she had no particular taste for either. She must have felt sorry for me, or maybe it was that I picked up her New Jersey accent (I told her my sister had lived there for a time when her husband was in the service) and she seemed to warm up to me and kept coming back to refill my coffee cup.

She listened to my life story and I heard hers. I discovered she was actually staying in one of the rooms upstairs (spartan but clean she said) because that’s all she could afford and she was trying desperately to save enough money to get bus fare back home.

I’d heard that story before, of course, but for some reason I believed her. You can’t look into a girl like Marlene’s eyes and not come away having at least a little faith in human nature. Of course I'm always a sucker for a pretty face and a sincere smile, especially one that breaks through as quickly as hers did on my first attempt to be funny.

I knew I needed at least $20 for cab fare across the river and when I checked my wallet I found I had three twenties, a five and two ones. When she came with my check, which was $6.87, I slipped the three twenties between the five and the ones, pressed them into her hand and asked if she could bring me a pack of spearmint chewing gum. She said "Don't go away now," but when she turned toward the register, I got up quickly, slipped out the door, and headed up St. Charles Avenue to Melpomene to thumb a ride across the bridge.

I never looked back as I hurried past the picture windows to see if she’d turned around, and I turned the first corner in case she came outside to find me. I never did get that ride unfortunately. I walked the entire way across the bridge, down the Westbank Expressway, and didn’t get home until nearly 6 in the morning.

I collapsed and fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit that mattress. Sometimes when my head hits a mattress pretty hard, I think back to that story and Marlene's suddenly laughing eyes in that smokey diner. I've never told anyone that story for fear they’d think I was a sucker. But now you know.


For if I ever saw you
I didn't catch your name
But it never really mattered
I will always feel the same



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 4th, 2007 02:46 am (UTC)
It's nice to hear that you got back in touch with Marlene, after so many years, through LJ! :)

What ever happened to rough and ready Bernard? Were you still friends after that punch?
Mar. 5th, 2007 06:42 am (UTC)
It's funny how we sometimes meet people we've known all our lives.

Unfortunately, although Bernard was more of a friend of a friend, our friendship didn't progress much farther. He didn't even remember the incident, and I was told he was often subject to these bizarre lapses of memory. Sad for him, that was only a hint of some of the very deep problems he had and faced down the road.
Mar. 4th, 2007 05:28 am (UTC)
Nope, I don't mind at all. That story will always bring the smile back to my face, Shoji-kun. Thanks for sharing it. ^_~
Mar. 5th, 2007 06:45 am (UTC)
Didn't mean it to sound like you were such a mess. You really weren't all that bad at all. Just my dramatic nature I guess.

Everyone should have at least one such memorable meeting though, don't you think?
Mar. 9th, 2007 05:06 am (UTC)
That's okay. Things are bound seem a little worse than they are when viewed in states/situations like the one you were in at the time, ne? ('Course, a dramatic nature doesn't hurt, either.)

And yep, I agree - everyone should have at least one such memorable meeting. ^_^
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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