Roll Those Bloodshot Eyes at Me
I've got to bail my boyfriend out of jail. As if I'm made of money,
what everybody thinks. But he's better than some of the people who
have crashed here. Like that one-armed contractor who begged me
to go on jobs with him to hold the damn nails. Finally, I said look,
honey--and gave him four hundred dollars to lease a fruit stand
in a truck parked in front of St. Louis cemetery. First week someone
ripped off all four wheels. Now it just sits there propped up on
cinder blocks with ratty cardboard signs about strawberries from
the country. And every time he gets a hard-on he takes the day off.
call me a "remittance man." Means my family pays me to stay away.
That's how come I'm back in New Orleans, where years ago I finally
finished at Tulane with a thesis called "Madonna: A Woman of Gender,"
which I won't go into now. If I hadn't gone to Tulane, I wouldn't
know who I am. I mean, socially. Even if I do live with a penniless
old alcoholic and am in love with a dreamy hustler named Ernest
Royal Breaux, who's in for assault.
everyone I meet these days, I had a miserable childhood. My mama
was a drunk, my daddy chased women, and my grandfather was the governor
of the state of Louisiana. I'm not telling you which one he was--I'm
too ashamed--but I will say PawPaw escaped over the state line with
a paper bag over his head after my grandmother Mimi tried to have
him committed. Then he gave a press conference from a motel in his
drawers eating grits without his teeth in. They broadcast that over
the whole world, and I just about died. Especially about the teeth,
which Pawpaw forgot on the back of a commode in the capitol washroom,
he was in such a hurry to get the hell out of Louisiana.
they brought him back, Mimi's like "You go play bourré with
him, boy, and keep him quiet." This was back around when Mama and
Daddy were getting their divorce, so I was staying in the mansion
a lot. Pawpaw and I had played bourré together while he decided
on some important legislation, emptying a bottle of bourbon in the
process. One thing I can say: He cheated at bourré.
only part of my miserable childhood. Fact is I'm a flaming faggot.
don't care if you a hoMOsexual, Bib," my big sister always goes,
"but why you have to turn out a flaming faggot."
I go, "We don't care if you a WOman, but why you have to turn out
a fat sow with a kid hanging off each of your six tits. Or those
supposed to be your knees and elbows?" That gets her every time.
She really does need to reduce.
caught me the first time. I'd managed to hogtie myself in the stable,
bareassed except for Mama's bra, and was rolling around in horse
shit. He beat the tar out of me because he said I was aroused. What
really got him: so was his favorite thoroughbred. That was the beginning
of shrinks and military schools. They said they wanted to make a
man out of me but really just wanted me out of sight, like Pawpaw
when he wound up with the paper bag over his head.
I pleaded, flipping bug-eyed through a military school yearbook,
"don't send me away to be locked up with all those muscle-bound
boys in uniforms." But they wouldn't listen to reason. So by the
time I was kicked out of the last one, Culver Military Academy in
Indiana, for starting the midnight action in the wheelchair-access
bathroom, everyone was calling me Longjohn. Cadets are a bunch of
size queens, if you want to know the truth. My first name is John,
though everyone calls me Bib. And I'm not telling you what my last
been back in the French Quarter ever since I broke up with my second
husband, a dentist named Bernard I lived with in Daytona Beach.
"Why a dentist?" I ask myself in moments of introspection. But after
the plastic surgery, I feel comfortable with doctors. They can see
me for who I really am, beyond all the glamour.
with all the Perocodin and coke we were doing, Bernie and I started
working on each other's nerves. After smashing every piece of glass
in his condo one night, I took off with a guard who had just been
fired for running a security golf-cart into the lagoon looking for
a bottle of vodka he'd stashed behind a philodendron.
Too is a 62 year-old Alkie I used to pal around with while Bernie
was off doing root-canals. He listens to opera and is into butt
plugs, one of the sweetest men I've ever known. I drink a lot too,
if you want to know the truth, so I took him hostage and caught
the Amtrak to Baton Rouge. We got there just in time for my 35th
birthday. After two nights at Mama's, she made a few brisk calls
that set me up with an apartment in the Quarter and a check every
month. She had discovered one of Too-Too's playthings wedged into
her Lay -Z-Boy.
getting too old for so much commotion," Mama says. She dried out
a long time ago.
is for quitters," I tell her. She just shakes her head, says stay
thing, as the daughter of a former governor, Mama has flawless taste.
The apartment she got me on Dauphine is a restored shotgun with
plaster moldings, bronze fixtures, hardwood floors, and glass chandeliers.
I really didn't mean to trash the place. Things have just gotten
out of hand.
day I moved in I met Crystal, a forty year-old crack whore who had
just been evicted and was circling the Quarter with a U-Haul filled
with all her stuff. Her fourth husband, a teenager who works as
a clown on Jackson Square, bought me a half-gallon of good vodka
and convinced me to let them keep everything here for just one night.
I didn't have much to move in except for a boombox, my Madonna poster,
and Too Too, who had managed to lose his suitcase on the Greyhound
from Baton Rouge.
welcome to the neighborhood wasn't exactly cordial. The director
of the Vieux Carré Commission, who lives across the street,
said he didn't particularly object to Crystal's five-foot cage on
the gallery with the squirrel inside who thought it was a human
being. Or to her mangy white cockatoo in another cage. What got
him was her leatherette couch we couldn't fit through the door.
Said it was tacky and had to go and suggested cane rockers or a
swing or a loveseat in white rattan. All my new friends were on
the floor next to the dishwasher getting high. I didn't want to
ruin my first evening fussing with that old queen.
you know how the Quarter is on a July night. At dusk everybody comes
scampering out like roaches hiding from the scorching light. Then
the neighborhood is one big cocktail party. Music blares out of
open bar doors. Hunky guys in tank tops and cut-offs lean against
car hoods sucking on ice cubes, rattling go-cups at you as you pass.
People scream to each other from balcony to balcony, hang out on
their stoops, draining beers and mopping their brows and shooting
the shit with everyone who walks by. It's too hot to touch. And
too hot not to.
I slipped on bathing trunks and some Mardi Gras beads Crystal gave
me, found a garden hose, and wet my curly self down every half hour.
Dauphine Street was the only place I ever wanted to be, stoned on
the steps with a Screwdriver and my boombox, carrying on with everyone
in the street. I kept turning up the Stones, singing "Wild, wild
horses couldn't drag me away."
first night I was drunk as a monkey, rolled up in one of Crystal's
old sheets in front of the floor-to-ceiling window that opens onto
the gallery, when somebody crawled inside on all fours. I said to
myself, "Bib, honey, prepare to expire." But then the intruder curled
up beside me like a lost lamb--or should I say ram? He was sporting
a monster down there, and it wasn't until the first rays crept in
through the jalousies that I realized he didn't have any top front
teeth and smelled like a free box. But by then I didn't care. It
was a new morning and he was mine.
he grew up in Crowley and his name is Ernest Royal Breaux--I do
believe that's the only true thing he's ever told me--and he's a
veterinarian at the Audubon Park Zoo. He's twentyish with wavy chestnut
hair and soft green eyes, tanned and built like he's been doing
hard labor, not another gym bunny hanging out in the free-weight
room like those Muscle Marys in Daytona.
what's a veterinarian from the zoo doing crawling into my cage in
the middle of the night?" I wanted to know.
week three assholes mugged me at the ATM. Niggers punch my teeth
down my throat, take all the money out my account, then leave me
broke and bleeding in Pirates Alley," he explained with a coonass
you crawl in anybody's window you please like a dog in heat?" I
don't fall in love before breakfast. That's my policy.
I was in the shower, I heard Royal in the kitchen informing Crystal
and her clown, who was putting on his make-up, he's a golf pro judging
an open competition at Elmwood Country Club. I was some mad. Then,
tossing everything out my suitcase trying to find something to wear,
I hear the golf pro tell Too Too--get this--he's the director of
the Vieux Carré Commission.
Madonna on the boombox, sashayed onto the gallery and threw myself
onto the leatherette couch. Everybody was already high and talking
to that stupid squirrel like it was a human being.
get something straight," I hissed, lighting a Camel
and tossing the burnt match in his direction "The director of the
Vieux Carré Commission lives right across the street, and
yesterday him and me had a little tete-a-tete. And I know you're
not him or a golf pro or a fucking veterinarian at the goddam zoo.
You can't con a con man. Who are you really?"
whenever you ask anyone in the Quarter who they really are, pull
up a chair, loosen your girdle, and get ready for a real pack of
lies. Ernest Royal Breaux said before he won the "New Meat Night"
contest at The Rough House and became a hustler, he was a member
of a white militia on his sister's survivalist ranch in Alabama.
Pawpaw could see me now, he'd be so proud," I said, casting my eyes
all hustlers, he said he has a girlfriend he adores who serves him
champagne barefoot but he just can't stay off the pipe. And in his
sick mind, he becomes his tricks. Takes on their identities. Ever
since that time he ripped off a trick's wallet and impersonated
him across the country on a drug-crazed credit card spree.
night I tricked across the street," he said, pointing at the door
of the director of the Vieux Carré Commission. "That guy
has a security camera that's not a prop, like most around here.
Lays in bed jerking off watching his front steps on video, and when
he sees someone setting there he likes, he comes out and yanks him
in. He's into spanking, so we have to tell him how bad we been while
he spanks our butts. So he throws me out at five in the morning
and tells me I can probably crash on that tacky sofa cross the way.
Then I see you sleeping in there like an angel and come in to keep
you company. Tricking's lonely."
afternoon we hung out on the gallery and organized Crystal's stuff
into a sidewalk sale. And met more neighbors, like Cloris the bald
drag queen who lives in the slave quarter out back with his eighty-two
year old father. Royal stayed around until evening when he took
his shirt off, stuffed it in his back pocket, and went to stand
on the corner. And around dawn, he crawled back in through the window
to curl up with me, and in the morning handed me a twenty and a
bunch of change. That's how I got started with Ernest Royal Breaux.
Believe me, walking on the street with him is like being with Mae
West. Everybody's like in awe until they check out the teeth. At
least he pays his own way.
Too, on the other hand, doesn't have a dime to his name and plans
to retire on Social Security in Mexico next year. He only has one
shirt and a pair of pleated gray slacks, so he started spending
the day dressed in nothing but a beach towel. He's the one who cooks,
slept on the floor by the stove. Until Cloris showed up one day
with a cot after the ambulance left. That girl was a mess.
just died," Cloris said, all puffy-eyed. "Can you all use his bed?
I can't stand to look at it no more."
mean that's where he died?" Too Too wanted to know. He opened it
up to inspect the mattress for stains. "Hey, you want a drink?"
they had a good bawl, and now Too Too lolls around on the Bed
of Death all day like a beached whale, listening to opera wrapped
in a towel that says SURF'S UP! When the black football players
drop by to see him, he closes the kitchen door. But it still drives
Royal crazy. Last week he threw a hissy-fit.
your tricks out to the alley," he screamed. "Decent people
have to eat in here."
then Royal started scoring rocks off Too Too's tricks, and on New
Year's some defensive-end from LSU even brought over a bottle of
Dom Perignon. And that's made an uneasy peace between the watermelon
queen and the white survivalist.
the meantime, I've kicked everybody else out, the one-armed contractor,
Crystal and her clown, and all the eighteen year-olds who would
hang out all day rolling joints and grabbing my remote. I can't
take it anymore. I started feeling like the Mother Teresa of hustlers
and con artists, running a soup kitchen in the quarter of lost men.
I go, they find me, and like Pawpaw, I never learned to say no until
it's too late. They fall in love with me because I listen to their
stories about who they were, or who they think they are. No one
else bothers. Just fuck 'em, pay 'em, and throw 'em out. Their raps
are all lies, I guess. Although sometimes they're telling the truth,
sprawled on my scuzzy mattress and staring up at the chandelier.
They go on about their grandmas and their dogs, stuff like that.
And know I don't want anything from them except maybe a hit off
their joints. I can't help it. I like damaged people because I'm
one of them.
that blues song goes, don't roll those bloodshot eyes at me.
the only neighbor I get along with, has moved out. After his dad
died, he went on a bender and emptied all the drag out the armoires
and chiffarobes into the middle of his bedroom floor. Then he threw
the scarves, skirts, wigs, and padded bras into Seagram boxes, along
with make up, tweezers, and everything else he called his "woman's
stuff." Then he took the day off from his welding job, stacked the
boxes in the back of his pickup, drove them to the Goodwill, shoved
them across the counter and announced, "I quit."
Cloris in the bars, his eyebrows have grown back in. He took his
dad's death real hard.
except for Royal and Too Too, no one's left to hang out with this
January. It's damp and cold and I feel like a lizard at the bottom
of a well. Tonight I stopped by Your Little Red Wagon to say hello
to Miss Mamou behind the bar and find Royal. Just a bunch of hustlers
playing video-poker or nursing beers in the corner-- waiting for
a ride to their mama's wake, it looked like. It was all spiders,
for an old black gentleman who comes in every night--a choir director
or voice teacher, something like that--who was trying to have a
birthday party. Half-eaten paper plates of gooey cake were all over
the bar, and he was wrapping the leftovers up in the MacKenzie box,
tying it again and again and looking at each of the guys like, now
what? He kept twisting the red string around the box like he couldn't
believe nobody loved him on his birthday because he was old.
he couldn't keep his hands off his cake.
I went over and hugged him and told him happy birthday and how handsome
he was. One day I'll be wrapping up my cake in a bar too like this,
after the party's been over for 25 years but nobody's told me. So
while this guy's revving up the story of his life, Miss Mamou comes
over to tell me Royal's been popped.
a beeper queen," Royal cackled. I'm his one call, and the phone
was ringing when I walked in.
new one on me." I never believe a word he says, but I listen. "What
happened this time?"
tie him up in his bed, just like he says, set his beeper to vibrate,
slip it in a condom and shove it up his ass. Then I shut the door,
go into the kitchen, crack open a cold one, dial his number, and
hit redial every few minutes."
do a three-way with call waiting?" I asked.
no shit. He works for the phone company, so he's got all kinds of
gadgets and beaucoup bucks. But tries to pass me a 20 when we settled
on 50. So I punch out his lights and he gets the cops to pick me
up. Says the jab to his kisser wasn't consensual."
this is the last time I bail Ernest Royal Breaux out of jail. Try
to stay out of trouble till I see the bail bondsman in the morning."
right, babe, but hurry up. This place is filled with.... I might
you might enjoy it."
you, Bib," he said, and hung up.
I got off the phone to Baton Rouge. And tomorrow I have to hightail
it over to Merrill Lynch on Poydras then take the bus to Parish
Prison on Tulane and North Broad. I told Mama I need some dental
work. God forbid I tell her the truth. Not that she'd recognize
it if I did. Or anyone in this town, for that matter. Every time
I start with what Too Too calls that "governor's grandson shit,"
he walks out of the room. I don't care if he or anyone else believes
me. It only costs a drink or a joint for someone to believe you.
Or at least listen to you. And I haven't run out of people yet.