[This post is the second in a series. For Part I, go here.]
The second diner Husband and I found ourselves at was in New Orleans. I’ve never been able to fully explain how, twenty-years-old and six weeks into our relationship, we ended up spending a surreal week in this sultry city.
I mean, I know I had a job manipulating equations in a little room on the fourth floor of the mathematics building, just off St. Charles on the green grassy lawns of the Tulane campus. And I know that I spent the hours after work wandering over the broken sidewalks with a cellphone glued to my ear, telling my secrets to Husband at the other end. And I know that Husband had enough frequent flier miles from his former life as a jet setter to leap the distance from the Arizona desert to the swamps of Louisiana in a few hours.
I just don’t understand our shared delusion that we, near-kids and near-strangers, could spend a week living in my apartment-style dorm, with its white walls and cockroaches and twin bed with a single sheet that was still too much for the wet, heavy summer air and expect it to be magical. Even the elements mocked our arrogance, sending a tropical storm and then a hurricane that no one remembers because its damage was eclipsed by that infamous storm that hit less than two months later in August 2005. And even though, or maybe because, Hurricane Dennis chased everyone I worked with up to Baton Rouge and Husband and I to the top of a tall hotel, it was magical, cockroaches and inclement weather aside.
Too poor for cabs and too young to rent a vehicle, we traveled by street car, balanced between rail and wire. Two desert rats, we stared into the face of the Mississippi. Famous jazz halls turned us away for being underage and we sat instead in the fuzzy glow of street lamps, eating Cajun food and inhaling hot steam from chicory coffee. We lingered over beads and talismans and paid homage to Marie Laveau.
When it comes to magic, though, not one of these moments topped the morning we found our second diner. The dining room was narrow and ran the length of the galley kitchen. I don’t remember the food, except that it was fine, or what it looked like, except that the sun streamed in and made it all a little less dingy. I just remember knowing that of all the storybook scenes we’d acted out that week, this was the one I would see again: the ceramic mug against the Formica table top, the snap of the griddle, and the contented silence between Husband and me. That’s why, any week, in any town in the world, you’ll find us at a diner, reliving that morning.