“Hey you! Can you buy me some food!”
The black lady came at me as if she knew me, that I owed her money. After the initial shock, I knew what to do. I smiled and shook my head politely ignoring the other black ladies’ (who were standing around) startled stares. It’s night time, I was on my way back to my hostel from this Walmart nearby. This is a black neighborhood, the Garden District. But I was still surprised, as I was headed to the Wing Stop, searching for dinner myself.
I stepped inside the Wing Stop, expected to be saved from the unexpected unwanted attention. Immediately I saw this customer who was waiting for his order (Need I say that he’s black? Along with the employees who were fulfilling the take-out orders and cleaning the place up for closing?) rushed towards me, and before I could react, he reached out and held the door open behind me, for the clearly disabled lady who was hollering at me asking for food not a moment ago. I had almost shut the door on her. I escaped the Wing Stop, feigning indifference to their food options. As I was walking away, I saw that lady was getting some water from their fountain, and nobody thought that was anything but normal.
This person, who held the door for the poor and deprived lady to whom I had turned my back, made me ashamed but he also welcomed me, they all did. They had shown me the character of the place, the real character. I wonder who is the deprived one.
It’s a public place, so I thought I was safe. Safe to zone out and enjoy the Mississippi River to my left, and the Jackson Square to my right. After enjoying some impressive impromptu Irish pipe music dealt out by a street artist in full kilt, who was then discouraged by the silent but pointed circling of a police officer for further profit, I was amused and clearly rendered content by the never-can-be-fully-described beignets. Another person was sitting one seat over, what of it? I wanted to be quiet to soak in the good-cheers and merriment. That person was trying to pick a conversation with some other folks sitting on the other side, to no avail. They seemed to be ignoring him. Well, thank god more people want some peace and quiet in this cool French Quarter evening. Then he poked me on my arm.
We struck up a conversation. He’s a middle-aged man, quite handsome and he knew it. He listed his artistic explorations, did some impersonations. He asked where my husband was, I was on guard but as his story progressed, I realized that an artist can never truly lie. So we sparred, we picked something outta each other, I think I won in the end. Before we parted I gave him $20 so he could eat that night, and because he asked. He’s off again on his way to find himself and others. I wish him luck.