On moving down South

Louisiana wasn’t my first choice for moving. Sometimes I think I could have moved to Ohio, or New Mexico for that matter. But it’s not true.

Louisiana has a peculiar type of charm. People travel from across the world to visit and to see a truly distinct piece of the American pie. I’m really no different.

“The city is magic,” a friend of mine once said about New Orleans.

I believed them then and I still do. You don’t need to visit New Orleans to know that. A deep swampy force attracts a certain brand of people with just the right amount of curiosity and sucks them in.

But  for all its charm, it is still a new country to me. Everything is different. Living on the West Coast I could drive 1,000 miles south on I-5 and recognize almost all of the town names. I have no such familiarity down South. I’m lost in a tangle of state borders, “parishes,” highways and interstates, all weaving in and out of each other (but the roads – and the drivers – here are another story completely).

When I look out my window at night I can see the fluorescent lighting of Walmart contoured by three enormous white crosses in the background. Churches are everywhere. Some are falling apart. But then again, so are a lot of things, especially in the countryside. Forgotten buildings start to slip back into nature. Their roofs cave in, vines creep along their exterior and they slowly fade to an earthen brown.

It’s all part of the allure, every sensation, whether it’s the god awful smell on Bourbon Street or the weight of the air at a Highway 61 gas station. I came here because I wanted to learn what the mysterious South, which so many Northerners have vilified, was actually like. What better place to do it than in Louisiana?

***

I live in Baton Rouge.

It’s not my first time living outside of Washington, but it’s my first time really on my own and with nothing to cling on to. I’m like a crab without a rock, scuttling along, looking for something to claim.

There’s no college classes to attach to. No family or job to rely on. This is what people warn you about. It’s what some would call “the real world.”

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

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