The Business Trip
Racheline Maltese
M y first night in New Orleans is July 3rd, and I consider gambling on the eve of the revolution. Instead, I go to the Quarter, to Bourbon street, and it's not true it's only for tourists. The natives just say that to keep us away. Everyone seems younger than me drinking lousy beer. People grab at my arms asking for change; in New York, they don't touch you.
Walking by a bar, all its windows removed, I hear a man say, "not in my eye." I make a soft hissing sound to myself, to make it "eyes," but with my tongue still stuck to the back of my teeth I see I've got the attention of a girl, about seventeen with raccoon eyes who cocks her head from side to side as she walks towards me. She clicks her tongue and I wait for her voice to come. It doesn't. She runs a finger along one of my curls and smiles. If I were a man, I'd know to ask, "how much," and how to ask it real shy.
A man with one eye and no eye patch comes out of the bar, and grabs her by the elbow, saying, "Lucy, I thought you didn't like girls." She flicks her tongue at him.
"You coming," he asks half in my direction.
"Only if we're both gettin' paid," I brave.
"Sorry, hun, I'm broke," and he walks off with Lucy.
I slip my wedding ring off into my pocket.

First published: August 1997