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Mr. Houston Part II

March 22, 2016

The next morning we slept in and I made coffee. We sat on my sofa, soaking in the generous sunlight and talked for a long time. He wanted to eat some cajun food, so we walked the short distance to a boucaniere, passing by my old apartment.

My son, Shawn was there with his best friend and girlfriend. I made awkward introductions. Shawn announced he might be boiling crawfish later. I really wanted to go. I hadn’t had any crawfish yet this season. I asked Mr. H if he was up for it.

“Well, I already met him, so….sure.” He was a good sport about the whole thing. Shawn didn’t want me to bring him, but what was I going to do? Not eat crawfish? I couldn’t just abandon Mr. H. I had no choice.

We sat outside on a bench, eating ribs, cornbread dressing, mac and cheese and boudin, talking above the loud bells of the cathedral down the street.

Shawn came over to give a crawfish update. It would be that evening, he said.

Mr. H and I walked back toward University, across the campus and on to Girard Park. He was easy and natural to be with. He continued to make fun of Lafayette and compare it to Houston, the big city. “I can’t believe I’m in Lafayette,” he kept saying, in his Indian accent. When we passed the swings he said, “You want to go swing it out?”

“Yes!” I said.

“You want to run to the swings?”

I took off running, he followed behind. We swung for a while, forcing ourselves higher. I threw my head back as I went backward and pulled it back up as I went forward, the rush of blood making me laugh.

He asked me to sit on a bench with him and watch the ducks. He asked me lots of questions. He asked me what I thought of him, of the visit, of how things were going…..I could see the wheels in his head turning. He was happy and spontaneous but also practical and analytical at all times.

The temperature was dropping and we weren’t dressed for it so we walked back.

Back at #3, things headed up again and we ended up taking a nap in the sun of my bedroom.

Shawn called. He had live crawfish in hand. I told him to tell us when it was closer to eating time.

I asked Mr. H one more time, “Are you sure I’m not pushing it, asking you to go to my son’s house?”

“Nah, it’s all good,” he said. “If I’m uncomfortable we can leave right?”

“Absolutely.”

We went to Artmosphere for a beer and snack. I told him about their custom of decanting wine, one glass at a time, immediately before serving it. He was amused. The conversation continued to flow easy, but I picked up on something, a critical eye, maybe. I’ve picked up on it in others before, the Persian, specifically. It’s a sort of sizing up and thinking…..why isn’t she more than she is? Why hasn’t see done more. It’s a criticism I give myself all the time. Mr. H asked me why I wasn’t doing more photography. I talked about my brief stint as an AP freelancer after Hurricane Katrina. “It’s not that easy here,” I said. “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a really good photographer.”

I felt a little exposed and defensive. I wondered if he would just end up disappointed in me. I wondered if he would find out that I’m not like him. I’m not an entrepreneur. Though he constantly told me how genuine and honest I seemed, I wondered if he would still be interested if he got around to finding out everything about me. The depressive Marie, the one filled with doubt, the one who isn’t doing enough with her life.

Despite this minor uncomfortableness, I was still at ease with him and happy that he was there was me.

We moved on to the crawfish boil. My niece Mary was there. I introduced everyone. Shawn pulled me aside to vent about his roommate, a constant topic. Mr. H thought he was talking about him. I assured him he wasn’t. I talked and laughed easily with Mary, catching up on family gossip. “You’re very talkative,” Mr. H observed. “I’ve known her for a long time,” I said.

“You’re not that chatty with me,” he said.

“I have to ease in,” I said.

“I see that,” he replied.

The water had yet to boil and there were burner issues. The temperature was getting annoyingly low, so Mr. H and I went inside and sat on the joining ends of two couches. When he was deciding on whether to fly to Lafayette or not, I had sent him a pros and cons list. He pulled up the e-mail and went through the pros, checking off the things we had done: sipped wine, connecting physically, walked in the park….”We haven’t connected intellectually yet,” he said. So we talked politics, delving into the Iraq War, an obsession of mine for a few weeks.

I showed Mr. H the climbing wall Shawn had built. He was impressed. Watching him flit around, trying to fix things, Mr. H thought Shawn should be an engineer.

Our brief stay was turning into hours as Shawn and his friends struggled with bad equipment. I thanked Mr. H for being so patient. “It’s what I do, babe,” he said with a laugh. He called me babe all weekend in an adorably bold way that reminded me of Z.

No end in sight, I finally suggested we go get some food and head to the movie he wanted to see.  Just as we were walking out, the water was boiling and Shawn was about to put the crawfish in. I looked at Mr. H.

“Do you mind if we stay?”

“No, of course not,” he said.

Less than half an hour later we were all sitting in front of a pile of large crawfish, Shawn and I fighting over the biggest ones. Shawn told funny, if slightly embarrassing stories about family crawfish boils in the past. Mr. H was holding his own with the peeling and I was showing him how to get meat out of the claws. We stayed for the second batch. I ate as much as my stomach would allow and Mr. H and I bowed out to go see a movie. We went home to change into warmer clothes. He wore a sweatshirt from my daughter’s college.

We went to see 10 Cloverfield Lane. It was scary and slow moving. I put my head on his chest. He held my hand. I saw again how easy he laughed.

The movie took place outside of Lake Charles and at the end [spoiler alert] the protagonist turns on the radio, just having escaped captivity into a post-apocalyptic-type situation. The person on the radio says, “If you have any medical training, go to Baton Rouge. If you have any fighting experience, go to Houston. Houston needs you.” We looked at each other and laughed out loud. The protagonist backed her car up to a sign that said, “Houston,” with an arrow and turned her car that way.

It was the perfect ending to day two of our first date.

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