Roger: Part 1

I walked slowly to the door. A yellow note on the mailbox read: �Please do not leave mail for Roger S-----. He is deceased.�

The front door of the apartment was open. The porch was empty, the blue and white coolers were gone. Maybe he was at the lakefront…or working (this early? impossible.)

As if a dream, I got off my borrowed bike, and feeling my heart thud more quickly every step, tried to place the workers that were polishing the floors of the empty apartment within the context of the last conversation I had had with Roger 2 weeks before.

I walked slowly to the door. A yellow note on the mailbox read: “Please do not leave mail for Roger S-----. He is deceased.”

Everything changed after that moment.

15 years earlier:
A meeting in a bar on Royal Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It started with a tossed introduction from my somewhat legendary mother holding court at the bar. “D, this is Roger. He wants to go to that Rocky Horror thing and I told him you had gone.”

I turned to see a 40ish trim well-dressed man holding a cigarette much like I expect Tennessee held his; as a prop rather than a habit. I was curious but not especially interested. He was clearly amused by my teenaged appearance I could see, and also amused at my mother’s casual understanding of her youngest daughter’s cultural attachments. I did not find his appraisal that important.

We politely made plans to go to the Robert E. Lee to see it. This was the early 1980s and I had seen it in x-rated movie houses in my suburban neighborhood, so based on my companion and the area we were going to, I expected a tamer time. That Saturday, he picked me up in his maroon sedan, with its matching maroon interior, and neat Schwegmann paper grocery bag for trash behind my seat. He opened all the doors, but threw me his lighter casually when I asked for a light. The lighter was encased in a leather boot that sat carefully upside down in his breast pocket with the pointed toe hanging over the edge. The ironed shirt, the carefully casual jeans and the ties, was a uniform that rarely changed, and made him stand out in a tropical climate.

Oddly, that night we had fun. He was quick, he laughed often, and he clearly liked the energy of the Rocky Horror crowd. Mostly, he seemed interested in my life, my ideas and my writing, which he pulled from me with single, precise questions with no reaction at my defiant, almost monosyllabic answers. For the first of hundreds of times he drove back via the lakefront and then City Park, and then making one slow cruising trip through the gay bar section of the French Quarter before dropping me on St. Philip. I noticed then and many times after that he drove like a man from another time; confident in his right to be behind the wheel and to have a beer and cigarette at hand.


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