And they are all about–the people. Bethany is watching them through the rain from where she sits under her umbrella. Some of them staring from behind the forbidden glass. Inside and cool and dry sipping absinthe. Their eyes touch and then look away. Like they’re guests at a funeral not sure what to say other than, “The Lord giveth…”

They have found different ways different approaches to their success, or so Bethany surmises, But ain’t none of them found perfection.

The shower lifts just as it’s fallen. That is the way in New Orleans in the springtime. The portentous clouds part and the sun begins to shine, dissipating the palpable humidity, the sure smell of rain in a city that knows its dirt. The street performers come out finding their corners. The artists the painters reveal their canvasses along the wrought iron fences of Jackson Square. You can hear the outdoor brass bands again. Everything is green as it once was just in different tones without the shades of gray. The birds sing they are ready to feed. The odor of honeysuckle is rich.

And I will be twenty-three, Bethany says. I’m twenty-two now, but I won’t be for long. And when? When will he return? Some are garrulous. Some timid. Hedonists and ascetics. Don’t matter which pants leg you put on first. The ends justify the means… And we say we love it. We love perfection. But if we see it we hate it. We want it in ourselves, but despise any attempts of it in others. It’s the imperfections we remember. What we cherish in others. What can be our little secret. It’s the good stuff. Comforting. And so it must stay far from us–perfection. For most of us it might as well as stay up there–stay up on that cross… Bethany takes another panoramic view. She can’t see the river, but she can hear the boats go by. The deep prophecy of their horns… You see what you look for. You hear for what you listen. I love him now. Even if he don’t come back with it. Was his name Nathaniel? I’ll just call him Nathan. Winos all look the same. Said his man was up on Rampart Street. Near the folks of Congo Square. Hope he can get a quarter… It’s good to laugh at ourselves as long as others know that’s what we’re doing. Love be damned as damned it ever was. And forgiveness ain’t permission. How long? How long must I wait?

Then she sees her. She sees the face and not the name. The tired and wise discretion the face of an old negro woman. Dressed like she’s just left her trinket Voodoo shop on St. Peter’s. Her words hallowed into her own. Those firsts words spoken over her spoken over Bethany when she was given birth. She’s drinking rye whiskey…

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