I hugged Cynthia goodbye.

I asked Dirk if he just wanted to meet me back at the room. He awkwardly said yes.

I didn't tip this time.

I guess she thought I gave her a fifteen.

Finally, I ordered a scotch from Evelyn, the old witch. She was drunk beyond enunciation. She staggered back sloshing a generously overfilled shot glass of rancid rail scotch. "$3.50, she said." I gave her a ten. She went and had an encounter with the cash register and after awhile came back and gave me $11.50 change.

Many of them were very old. Few were American. Each one had a unique story I wanted to hear.

Cynthia and Dirk were huddled. Ready to go, I stared at the currency stapled to the wall behind the bar.

I got up and paid for my red beans and rice.

"I just can't help her with her problems."

Because I never hear about elderly women divorcing their husbands for men half their age.

Why does it pain me to hear of the writer and professor divorcing his wife for the young woman he was fucking in Greece?

We talked about writing.

"This is a neighborhood bar. And there are four people in it I don't know!"

Cynthia went up to buy us all a round. Evelyn was indignant that Cynthia had switched from drinking two beers to three.

I found Dirk and Cynthia. I was half an hour late.

The third time there were a couple of other customers.

"Right about now she should be drunk off her ass playing video poker. Tell her I said hi."

I went up to the one-legged man selling beads from his wheelchair on the curb of Bourbon Street and asked him if he could direct me to Evelyn's.

Why would one person order two beers?

Waiting for me to arrive, Cynthia went up to the bar and ordered two beers from the owner, who seemed unable to fix in her mind such a huge number.

"The dumb broad."

On the TV was a talk show about a woman who had driven her car into a pedestrian and drove home, the bleeding pedestrian lodged in her windshield, put the car in the garage and left him there until he died.

Muffaletta and Abita.

The misogynist told Lorien that she was the first woman who had ever come back. We saw no reason to doubt him.

The second time we went in the place was deserted.

"The building's been here since 1820. The old witch has owned it for forty years."

This is not America, this is New Orleans. This is where you have no pride.

I never thought he'd find me here, erupting from a forgotten nightmare that was the country I live in.

On the TV was President Bush dismissing in mutilated English the slaughter of Afghanistan and the collapse of the American economy.

"One time around is enough."

"Do you want to hear a story with a moral? I had three wives and divorced them and traveled the world to avoid giving the bitches alimony payments until one of them caught up to me and then I killed her. You know what the moral of the story is?"

He would pin you down with a defiant unrelenting stare and make you wait for the punchline.

The misogynist addressed Lorien as "young lady" and tried to dissuade her from drinking an alcoholic beverage.

Chicken and sausage gumbo and bread.

I asked him what he recommended and he told me to sit down and he would bring it to me.

He was short, thick, old, dressed like a sommelier, and his moustached beak gave him the appearance of a gnome.

The misogynist greeted us and presented with an upraised arm the chalk-scrawled menu on the wall as if it were a masterpiece wrought from two centuries of accumulated culinary wisdom.

The first time we went in the place was deserted.

"Looks cheap," I said.

—William Gillespie