Walking In Memory, by Chad A. Clark
The plane set down in New Orleans in a pouring rain. He stepped out of the terminal, his bright red alligator boots crunching down on broken glass. He raised up a hand, clutching a pack of cigarettes, as he waved for the next cab.
He walked down Bourbon Street, glancing up at the balconies, and remembering how her hair had flowed in the breeze as they pelted the Mardi Gras crowds with peanuts. He took long drags from the cigarette, the smoke rising up to mingle with the banners and elaborate flower arrangements that lined the street.
The coffee shop where he had met her was still there, now sandwiched between trendy chain restaurants. The ragged poster of Louis Armstrong still stood guard over the patrons, partaking in burnt espresso and stale sandwiches. He had never cared for the place, but the essence of her still lingered there and who was he to fight the pull of tradition?
On the next corner, as he tried to fight the taste of caffeinated memories, the smell of catfish frying wafted down from the balcony above, and he could make out the sound of someone inside, banging on an old piano. It was the same corner he had walked past with her, the preacher standing on his apple crate, reaching out to the crowd, reaching out for him.
She had always loved the city, the people and the music, the food and festivals. Loved the smell of spice in the air, and nights spent trudging through the worst parts of town to find restaurants hidden behind heavy metal doors. He was often surprised that they hadn’t needed a password, just to get in.
She had always been there next to him on these trips, here in the city and beyond. She was supposed to stay there, always at his side. Now the only presence he felt around him was the weight of absence.
So, hours after his informal walking tour, he blinked and found himself on the bed of a hotel room. He reached across to return the now empty bottle of gin next to the empty bottle of scotch. Satisfied that he had finished both, he reached to the table on the other side of the bed, took hold of the tiny prescription bottle and laid back, steeling himself against the imminent comfort of the outstretched shades of eternity.