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Charlie Brown


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Marisol led me through the back gate of Odd Fellows' Rest. It's part of the series of cemeteries at the top of Canal Street, a triangle of plots at the street's end. They call this bus stop "Canal Cemeteries," which is creepy in its own way. But not as creepy as the above-ground graves that make up the cities of dead within.

It had been two years since we first met, co-workers at a hippie coffee house that suited neither of us. I felt an attraction immediately, but we were never free at the same time. Now, we were both single and tonight felt like an origin point.

Close to midnight, we walked in the October winds that shushed through the leaves of giant oaks. Marisol gave guided tours here during the day while wearing the full Victorian regalia of white powder and heavy blush for her face and lace-up bustier and diaphanous cotton skirt for her body. The effect was supposed to be 19th century yellow fever patient, and yet, she was still so beautiful.

If I walked the Equator like a tightrope, would I feel the heat burn my soles? Would it be like a walk on the coals or just getting lost in the jungle?

Tonight she wore all black: sweatshirt, elastic-waisted skirt, tights. I told her we weren't robbing the place and she smiled. Even without the pancake make-up, she was still so wan.

Finally, we came to the spot she wanted to show me: a three-foot high brick circle with grass in the middle. I shrugged.

"It's thirty by ninety." She hopped onto it. "The exact latitude-longitude of New Orleans. I'm sure it's a vortex."

If I dance at the magnetic North Pole in steel-toed boots, will I be stuck to the ground, only able to shimmy? Or will I be repulsed by the negative and float over the ice?

A vortex. Where invisible lines cross. Places of great power because of cosmic convergence. She laid the whole trip on me, but I couldn't listen. I could only watch her glowing lips move and wish they were kissing me.

We sat on the bricks, then laid back on the grass. She told me to splay my arms to best feel the gravity tugging.

She asked if I felt anything. I mumbled something about the cold, about how we should cuddle together. She laughed at me, saying she felt so energized by the earth's own magic. She jumped up and ran away, into the rows of masonry bone shelters.

I did feel something: a full body erection. And I thought back to what Lane told me: "You want to sleep with the goth chicks. You don't want to be in a relationship with them."

If I swung from the Tropic of Cancer, could I catch the Tropic of Capricorn like a gymnast on the parallel bars? Could I fly so far, no net to catch me but the atmosphere?

I caught up with her on the oyster shell path. She gazed through me, my intense need like a dark spot on an x-ray. A faded smile, a cocked head and two relaxed shoulders told me it was over before it began. Should I have tried to feel the vortex, the powers beyond my own body? Could I navigate the waters of my soul to her starry beliefs? Probably not.

We slept in the same bed that night, but we felt as separate as two parallel lines. And in the morning, I receded into her history.

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