Loose Horse Running the Wrong Way January 15, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
“Head up! Horse going the wrong way at the half mile pole. The rider’s OK. Loose horse going the wrong way at the 1/4 pole along the fence. Gentlemen please hold up your horses and stay off the fence.Loose horse going the wrong way at the 5/8s pole. Loose horse going the wrong way at the half-mile pole.”
As the horse comes up on the grandstand I can hear its hooves on the dirt through the cold air. It has thrown its rider and is going the wrong way but the pole numbers keep going up. It doesn’t make sense.
Waking up at 5:30 am every day this week makes no sense, but I go to bed pretty early. Moving even a one bedroom apartment turns out to be a lot of work, especially if your primary non-furniture possessions are books (books are heavy) and the place is smaller and the closet is smaller. You have to take inventory of your life in things and make accommodations.
I drag the 93 pound box of a dresser back two rooms and discover the third piece of laminated particle board is cracked and I have to somehow get those pieces back in the box with their packing and you are happy at least that it wasn’t one of the last pieces or an entire afternoon might have been lost to the puzzle or repacking. I have to somehow get it back in the car and haul it to the nearest store. I call my friend up the street and ask him to help to get it down the stoop and into the hatch back. When I arrive and get a cart jockey to help me unload it, the receipt stuffed half in my pocket blows away in the stiff breeze of a cold front.
Two dressers, a bed, two desks, an air conditioner, a hot plate and a rice cooker as I have no stove, and would rather keep the 48″ round with two chairs someone gave me a while back. A shower ring and associated hardware to rig up a shower. I am spending too much money but if I want to spend more time with my son he needs his own bedroom even if it’s a walk through.
The credit cards go up and up, these new expenses on top of the co-pays for surgery and a car repair and my daughter’s tuition and the money goes out faster than it comes in even while I was still working. A mortgage and my rent and my daughter’s rent and I can’t keep up. Anything i want besides rent and my daily bread ends up on the cards. An expensive sleeper sofa for my son’s weekends that is actually comfortable to sit and sleep on. Meals and drinks, an attempt at normalcy in a city where meals and drinks and cover charges are not luxuries but the as much the bread of life as the po-boy loaf from the grocery up the street. The company IRAs won’t allow loans unless you still work at there. I consider the ruinous interest of minimum payments versus the loss of IRA, the equally ruinous penalties, but so many people in New Orleans cashed out their IRAs to rebuild when their lives. I am in good company.
The heaviest thing I haul up the street is my old work laptop bag now full of books: a complete works of Chaucer with commentaries in hardback strains the tennis elbow I have from using computers. Two books on the history of New Orleans and a few more on America as a Foreign Culture in Anthropology. A book for a freshman level biology class all liberal arts majors must now take. It is not the weight of paper and cover boards but the prospect of going back to school, taking Moloch’s severance and retraining allowance and biting off at least one semester’s worth of the degree I abandoned 30 years ago. I will be older than my classmates by over 30 years. I will probably be older than my professors.
I thought I could do it in one semester and maybe the summer if I can stick to the budget I worked out, but the graduation requirements have changed. Some of the 2000-level sophmore courses that would have counted as required electives now must be upper class courses. Philosophy is no longer considered an acceptable required liberal arts elective, and I had most of an undeclared minor in Philosophy. The required hours climb up and up but I’m going back anyway. The job market is slow. Resumes vanish into silence, or I get an interview but no a call back. Companies no longer send notes if they don’t hire you. Politeness is reserved for customers, doesn’t otherwise contribute to the bottom line, the only measure of Moloch’s approximation of Grace and I am no longer part of the equation. I am not going to miss that life for the next six months.
Another horse is loose and as it makes the rounds of the track the wrong way I wonder for a moment why they always go the wrong way but a horse that throws its rider is a contrary horse. This one ends in the call for a horse ambulance. The first loose horse ends with the rider OK, everything under control the man in the box watching the track says. This one doesn’t mention the rider and calls for an ambulance. The crows call as they do every morning, indifferent to catastrophe, interested only in what the horses may stir up up the track to eat.
Horse running the wrong way. I know I am going the right way but it is against the traffic of convention. My own run may end with “its OK. All clear” or the call for an ambulance but I am become one on of those horses that refuse to enter the gate gracefully under the control of their jockey but the packing and dragging of boxes, the struggle to assemble the cheap furniture step by step is a return to a sort of normality: the first step toward getting my son up for school, cooking and laundry for two instead of one, making sure he practices his saxophone and does his homework. I miss him dearly and he will be an anchor in my life. My other anchor dragged for years as we drifted toward the rocks, cutting it loose and beating against the wind and current the only possible course.
Hooves across Fortin Street have been the steadiest part of my routine for a year now, even when I was still dragging into a job I had grown to hate and knew was going away. There is comfort in the sound of their running, in the bells of Holy Rosary announcing eight o’clock mass if I’m home and outside smoking. Routine, chopping wood and carrying water as important as the sutras or matins. I won’t hear the church bells this morning as I must finish this letter to no one in particular. The call to the faithful will be lost in the roar of a borrowed Hoover as I finish cleaning the old place, then off to the hardware store to find the right piece to make the shower head work, getting someone to give me a third hand as I hang the shower rod. The boy no more understands the mechanics of a sit-down bath than the arranging of a rabbit ears on a television set. Then an afternoon of more unpacking, fitting my life into a new place, getting ready for a new routine that begins this week when I park the car instead of dropping off my son and we both walk up St. Anthony Street toward school.
By the end of today the boy will have his own room. I will not need to squeeze past the sleeper sofa and try to quietly open the contrary door if I want to sit out front with my coffee and listen to the business of the track, the pounding of the horses, the Odd ones that run the wrong way, but I will not hear the bells. I will be off and running the right way. Like the best horses I must run own race as I navigate the pack, oblivious to the roar of the crowd, running only for myself.