My mom Linda, my Aunt Susan.
Sisters. They grew up poor in a shotgun shack under an industrial overpass. McKain Steet. The air smelled of chicory and baking bread and petrol. Three rooms, nine people, some Boston Terriers and a few chickens. They were the youngest and they had to watch out for each other, to make sure oldest brother Sonny didn't try to touch them when he stumbled home drunk, smelling of Jack and hair grease and Lucky Strikes. Bad things happened to them but they survived and when Linda ran away and got married in a baby blue mini dress Susan was the only family that showed up. And life went on.
I was ten when the sisters showed me my first wild night on the town, New Orleans style. They took me to the Mississippi, on the Riverboat President, to a floating concert by Fats Domino. They snuck in Amaretto in their purses, and giggled at their cleverness when the guards were too shy to look under the box of tampons they had used for cover. I giggled too, not because I understood, but because we had gotten one over on The Man. The riverboat cruised above the French Quarter and they drank and Fats found his thrill and we danced with our shoes off and shrieked like we were on fire. And we were, in a good way.
The sisters are separated now, and even though she tries to mask it, thinking of me as that ten year old, I can hear the waver in Aunt Susan's voice when we check in on each other. And we say: Any news? No. Any news? No. She's fine, it's just the phones are down is all. Yeah. Call me if you have any news. And we don't have any news, but we call anyway to say: no news.
And she's leaving her safety now to look for her older sister, who's fine, it's just the phones are down is all. They both survived being born at Charity Hospital. They both survived Sonny. They both survived Betsy. They'll both survive this. And she wavers when she says keep strong, and I can tell she's saying that for herself as much as me. And she'll go back into the Gulf and she'll disappear off my radar screen as she goes under for her sister and then I'll have even more no news, if that's possible.
Only I've got news. That ten year old is now as old as they were that night we shrieked with Fats Domino, and he's coming down to tell the sisters that Fats was found alive and well, and we'll all dance together again before this is over.