I’m in New Orleans on the floor of my hotel room while Z sleeps. He sleeps in the middle of the day so we can go out at night. The first night we saw jazz bands at 2am. Accidentally. They were so loud underneath our window that we went outside to find a band on every corner playing for tips.
The second day we moved hotels. I told myself it was an architectural decision. This new hotel is a refurbished church rectory. But we probably moved because falling asleep to neighborhood jazz makes for nightmares now that Z is going deaf from his car accident.
Now we’re staying next door to a vaulted Victorian church which has been unsanctified so there’s no pressure for proper living. Now there can be Mardi Gras weddings where so many women wear long ruffled dresses it’s hard to find the bride.
The piano in the apex is perfect for Bach so Z plays inventions in the morning before his head starts to hurt. The stained glass windows shine bright colors onto my legs while I sit next to the piano googling the names of the stained glass sponsors; maybe I’ll find a mate for a Mardi Gras wedding of my own. I would like to be Marie Antoinette for my wedding. Or Marie Curie with a glowing green headpiece.
In New Orleans, the people who don’t dress up at weddings are the ones who stand out for being awkward.
Usually I’m the only person who has to learn every rule for every situation so I like that in New Orleans the rules surprise everyone. There is a century-old krewe that marches in parades in blackface even though they’re Black, and sometimes the krewe invites white people to join them, and the white people also have to march in blackface. I like that there is a new set of social rules you have to learn to be in New Orleans. Because I function best when the rules are so complicated that people have to write them out.
I didn’t plan to come here for Carnival. I didn’t plan to come here at all. Z’s friends were busy making recordings for competitions and he felt like he had nothing. His phrase, not mine, but when he talks like that I panic. I can’t do another year on suicide watch. So I told him we’ll go visit my brother. I told him he’ll see his cousins and even though he’s fifteen years older, the gap will be nothing when they’re all adults — they’ll be lifelong friends.
“Mom. We don’t even know if I’ll have mental capacity when they’re that old.”
“Any age. I’m already an old man.”
I rushed to buy the tickets because his trauma therapist says the best thing to do when Z starts talking catastrophically is to just do something.
I told him, “We’re flying tomorrow,” to give him something else to think about. But the more I clicked, the higher the plane fare went. So I looked at other cities where my other brothers live. And every city was doubling in price. Like God was talking to me through seat selection.
The first city I had heard of that was under $500 per person was New Orleans. So I clicked buy and we flew the next day. And here we are, two weeks later, because no wonder the tickets were cheap: I picked the wrong date to return. I emailed Tatianna, who I talked to once and who I knew had kids Z’s age in New Orleans. When I met her I thought she must be crazy because no one raises kids in the French Quarter.
Two weeks later I realized that raising kids in downtown Boston is like raising kids in the French Quarter: all tourists, terrible schools, and a few lunatic parents. Tatianna’s kids homeschool which means they can run around the city with Z every day. Tatianna runs around the city with me. At night we dress up in increasingly intricate costumes to match the increasingly intricate parades.
I don’t know if we can handle the month-long crescendo to Mardi Gras. But we have no friends in Boston, and I spend so much time not wanting to go home that I forget to take my don’t-yell-at-people medicine. I rant for a day about how I want to buy more costumes even though I shouldn’t be buying costumes because you don’t buy costumes for a DIY parade and also costumes won’t fix my life in Boston; I’ll still be the same inside, and I’m worried that I’m breaking.
I want someone to tell me how to help Z with his pain. I want someone to fix my friend proximity problem. I want someone to tell me I can be absolved from fixing anything and just indulge myself for month-long stints of reading on the sofa. In pajamas. I want someone to unsanctify me, recommission me. I want to be rescued by a sponsor like I’m made of stained glass.