My plan was to walk around in the park for a while, then head back home. I was thinking this walk would clear my head, help me get my thoughts in order. I had things to do, but I couldn’t get them done because I had so many distractions. I felt like every time I was all set to tackle the important work I had to do, something would pop up and distract me. It was either people, like the people that were always hounding me to meet them at the waffle place, or my own thoughts—unstoppable thoughts, I said to myself.
When I got to the park, a man was climbing a tree. He climbed the tree like a cat, I thought. It was an oak tree, with broad branches, and the man sprawled out on one of them and unfolded a newspaper. Instead of walking through the park, as I had planned to do, I sat down on a cement bench. The man in the tree was reading his paper and drinking from a small bottle. I was thinking about a play I wanted to write, a German play. I wanted to write it in German and then translate it into English. I knew it would be hard, but it was what I had to do.
The man in the tree sat up and lit a cigarette. He drank from the little bottle as he smoked. I thought about my play, which would be about a prehistoric person that had begun to try to write by making marks in the dirt or on rocks. My play was one thing I knew the people I sometimes met at the waffle place would not understand. I knew if I tried to broach the subject of my plan to write a play in German and then translate it into English with these people, their lack of understanding would make itself known in the most disagreeable way, especially if I told them the play would focus on an ancient person—either a man or a woman—that was just beginning to try to write things down or draw pictures of things.
“Louise,” the man in the tree called. I glanced at him and then looked away. My mind was crowded with things that kept me from progressing with my play. Not only were there the people that were always trying to get me to meet them at the waffle place, but there were other things. For one thing, I thought, there was the matter of Baton Rouge, where I lived now, and New Orleans, where I had once lived, where I had spent most of my life. I had always been known as a city boy from New Orleans, and I was still called a city boy from New Orleans, even though I didn’t live there anymore.
It didn’t do me any good to keep thinking about how much better New Orleans had been than Baton Rouge was. The man in the tree hollered “Louise” again while I was thinking about what a waste of time it was for me to keep comparing the two places since I had moved out of New Orleans years before and had no plans to move back there, since Baton Rouge was my home and had been my home for years now. I wanted to concentrate on my play and stop obsessing about New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Tulane and LSU.
I was tired of sitting on the bench, but I didn’t want to leave the park yet. I was trying to think about my play, to clear my mind of all these other things, these distractions. I thought about how I had rooted against the Tigers when I attended LSU. I remembered sitting with some other LSU students and rooting against the Tigers. This was something I hadn’t thought about in years, but now it kept popping into my mind.
People were gathering around the tree while I tried to keep my mind on my play, on writing my play in German and then translating it into English. I thought about my main character, a prehistoric person that was trying to write things down so he—or she—would have some kind of record of what he—or she—had seen.
I thought about Merle and how happy we had been when we lived together in New Orleans. That was years ago, I was thinking as two police officers tried to coax the man down from the tree. It seemed like a hundred years ago. I tried to think about my play, my German play, and not about New Orleans. I was trying to get a clear picture of my protagonist, trying to decide whether the play would be from a male’s or a female’s point of view, instead of thinking about the people I didn’t want to meet at the waffle place.
I thought about Merle and the flowerbed I was planning to put in my yard. This flowerbed, I was thinking as I got up from the bench, would have several different kinds of plants in it, including roses, which were Merle’s favorites. She had planted some dark red roses in our yard in New Orleans, and I wondered whether they were still there. It would be easy enough for me to drive to the old neighborhood and find out, but I knew I wouldn’t. Not now, anyway.
As I walked along the sidewalk, I felt like my head had cleared a little. I thought this trip to the park would turn out to have a positive effect on my German play. When I got home, I would be able to get some things done, I told myself as I waited for a traffic light to turn green. I would get out my German dictionary and go to work.
Hiram Goza is the author of the novel Birds of Paradise, available at Amazon and fine bookstores, and is completing her second novel.