It was one of my favorite summers. I never got carded at bars, and sometimes I wouldn’t even get charged for my cranberry vodkas. I would demurely wander into a bar and scope out the room. I felt like everyone was waiting for me to show up even though they didn't know me...like they needed me. Whenever the bartender would say my drink was on the house, I assumed it was because he detected my star quality presence. Or perhaps he took pity on me. How come this teenage girl is all alone? She doesn’t have any friends? What’s wrong with her? Poor thing. Let her drink for free.
There is something about New Orleans that makes the unwanted feel wanted. The little guy feel like the big guy. The sad and lost to continue to feel sad and lost but with more air to breathe.
Cut to: The Bone. He wasn’t from New Orleans. He looked a little too on the nose with his eccentricity to be from here. He was 38 years old and had just moved from San Francisco two years ago to follow his musical career. (Now that I think about it, I’m not 100% certain whether The Bone was from San Francisco and just moved here OR originally from New Orleans then moved to San Francisco and then back. As I continue to write my book, I plan to contact him).
It was Wednesday night, so the streets weren’t littered too heavily with college kids and distasteful tourists. There was always an undercurrent of life in the French Quarter. No matter what night it was, something was going on. I connected more to the city on slower nights. There was a fluidity, a sense of freedom, traveling from one bar to the next, with to-go cup in hand, booze within seconds to your lips, hearing live music from one bar and then down the street, hearing music from another bar with a whole different type of band with different types of instruments.
The Bone seemed to be a regular everywhere where we went. All the bartenders and doormen knew him. Not only that, everyone genuinely seemed happy to see him.
“It’s the BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONE!” some would shout, high-fiving him as we would enter. Who was this guy? I wasn’t sure to be flattered or embarrassed to be seen with him.
Even though I’ve lived my life way past the state of humiliation due to my dad and everything that comes with him, I was consumed with other people’s judgements. I pretended that I didn’t care. I’ll go out by myself, I don’t care. I’ll fuck that guy, I don’t care. I’ll wear mixed patterns, I don’t care. But deep down, I so desperately cared. I still did weird things since that’s just part of being a Perkinson, but I would instantly regret it. I’d be in my head about it till the next weird thing came along to replace it. From wearing a leather beret out in public to sleeping with my acting teacher. Why did I just do that? No one would do that. But I did that. I’m so fucked up. No one my age would fuck their acting teacher…without wearing a leather beret.
I wanted to be liked and loved and popular. I wanted to ooze confidence instead of constant discomfort and shame. I wanted to be more like…The Bone. He owned his weirdness like it was his proud heritage. He would dance when no one else was dancing. He wore the strangest mixed/matched outfit when most men in the South wore khakis and a solid colored polo shirt with a white undershirt underneath. (There is an unspoken uniform for men in New Orleans). The Bone…was beginning to grow on me.
As the night went on, I got drunker, and he got more attractive. The poor man’s math equation that never fails. The Bone wasn’t interested in anything other than me. By 4 am, we were the only ones dancing in the bar, if you could even call it that. It was more like interpretative dancing that one does in theatre school. I’m sure everyone was annoyed by us. I mean, I would be. But he didn’t care, and I truly didn’t care. I felt free and silly and intoxicated. He pulled me towards him. He titled his big nose to the side, our lips were about to touch. He held me there for a moment. Inhaling me in.
Well, shit. I kinda knew it was going there. He’s been staring and smiling and buying me drinks all night long. Am I going to do this? Am I going to kiss him right here? In front of everyone?
And just like that we were making out, and he was groping me like we were teenagers. Well, I actually was a teenager. But you know what I mean.
“Do you want to come back to my place?” he asked as if he already knew my answer.
“Where do you live?” I needed to bide time. I was beginning to feel nervous. I still wasn’t use to the whole make out and then have sex right away. I thought about my boyfriend in 11 grade who waited almost a year to have sex with me. Each base was a milestone. Oh right, The Bone was 38 years old. I don’t think he would be willing to wait a year. Plus, I was leaving for college soon. I guess I didn’t want to wait either.
“Right over there.” He pointed across the street.
“Seriously?” I was expecting a more complicated response.
The Bone lived on the corner of Frenchman and Chartres street. We were in a bar on the corner of Frenchman and Chartres street. He literally lived across the street. No wonder everyone knew him.
“Sure,” I said hesitantly. He took my hand, and we walked across the street. My heart was beating.