Three photographs lay scattered on the floor. They must have fallen out when I threw the mattress down. I picked them up. In one, a black man dressed in a respectable brown suit was smiling for the person holding the camera while he stood on my balcony. In another, a black man dressed in blue jeans and not wearing a shirt was standing by my stove sipping soup from a wooden spoon and smiling for the camera. In the third, a black man dressed in soiled work clothes was standing in front of my apartment near the bush where I’d thrown the can of Coke, and he was smiling too.
They all looked happy and carefree, probably even in love. But nobody snaps a photo of a miserable man, or a pissed-off man, or a man in the act of revenge. You can’t trust a photograph, everybody knows that. But I looked at them for clues. I examined them to see how their arms hung. I looked at their smiles to gauge if they were real smiles. I looked for how the light of New Orleans fell on their faces. I looked for pots and pans I could recognize.
Darla had loved each of these men in turn, then she’d discarded them. Or they’d discarded her. Their love affairs had started strong, and finished wrong. One of the men had stabbed a note over Darla’s nail, which one?
Colette said, “Stop it, Nick.”
I said, “Colette, you fucked me over. I didn’t fuck you over. Get out of here and stop judging me.”
I had Darla put a restraining order on the soiled man standing outside. But he didn’t believe in the power of the government to restrain his whereabouts. He loved Darla, that was all he knew. He had nothing else – no job, no money, no education, no future. He loved Darla, so when Darla said “Enough!” he felt fucked over. I got it. A restraining order was a test designed by Darla to see if he had the courage to break through it.
“I’ll get a restraining order against you!” said Colette.
I couldn’t believe she was still there. How dare she interrupt me. I’d gone away, hadn’t I? Hadn’t I left her alone? Hadn’t I flown all the way down to New Orleans, where I’d never been and didn’t know anybody?
Darla called the cops to have him arrested. He took off. Two donut-eating cops came by. One yawned and said, “If I were you, Missy, I’d get out of Dodge.” The other cop wrote something down in a little notebook, then they left. Darla’s boyfriend came back. Darla was desperate. He was desperate. They wanted love to last, finally. So they fucked and it involved bruises and the best sex of her life. In the morning, Darla called her sister, a tweaker in Baton Rouge. She took a bus to the Greyhound station. Her sister was nuts. From the frying pan into the fire. At last the Greyhound bus came.
Handsome men. Sunny pictures.