I found myself in the CBD (Central Business District) the other day without my bike, so I walked around the French Quarter, knowing I rarely go there. I stopped by a store that sold 1950s dresses and other rockabilly accessories. I browsed around, knowing I probably would not purchase anything. I even looked at the sales section so I wouldn’t feel guilty, but there was nothing worth buying. Everything appeared in drab colors except for a pair of baby blue, glittery cat sunglasses, but the pointy ending at the end stuck out too far.
I bought a dress from here a while ago, which had not seen the light of day in several months. The sales girl approached me, and asked if I was looking for anything in particular. Her orange hair was pushed back by a headband. Every once in a while, she would ask if I needed help or had any questions. I tried to disappear by the section of sunglasses. I felt pressured to buy something, but that was how the game went. Other people walked in so she flocked to them. I didn’t feel pressured to take any of the clothing pieces seriously. Eventually, I grew tired of pretending, and I thanked the girl and said bye. As I was leaving, I noticed a song playing; it was coming from the stereo just outside the store. Just as it appeared on my phone, the sales girl came out and rolled the stereo back inside. She was no longer smiling or happy as when she first approached me. The was “Put Your Head On My Shoulder,” by Paul Anka.
I kept walking down Decatur St., and turned on Bienville St. I thought, if I had one of those colorful dresses stamped with ice cream cones, life would be so much better. I walked by the giant parking space near the river, then Jax, then the common stores: H&M, Urban Outfitter, etc. I quickly walked by, as I hated going to into those stores with countless of racks and customers, making never-ending lines. I kept walking past Jackson Square, wondering what other people saw when they visited the French Quarter. What did my friends and family see? I overheard a Spanish lady telling someone “Mira esa calle pequeña,” (look at that small street) and she pointed to a quiet narrow, empty street, where the houses were painted in hues of dark reds and soft pinks with decorative, lacy black balconies and vines falling on the side. Many of the images in front of me passed along, without giving me much thought. I walked by Molly’s, down to the thrift stores.
The thrift store where I had once bought a blanket was closed. A sign on the door said, closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I never knew when any of these places closed. The messy thrift store across the street was open, so I crossed the street, and a guy who was sitting by the gates of the Old Mint building, started saying something in my direction. “You look young—way out of my league, but maybe my friend could talk to you.” I don’t know who he was referring to, as I saw no one else on that street. He was severely toasted, sweaty and drunk, almost as if he had been sitting out in the sun for too long.
I walked into the messiness, seeing as how it was the only one thrift store open. I browsed quickly. There wasn’t anything worthwhile, and everything seemed devoid of color or the whimsicality that I had come expect from this store. Perhaps it was me, but some sections were empty. Had they forgotten to replenish? I reminded myself that I came here for a top hat. Still, I tried on a shirt and a large skirt, clearly intended for a bigger person. I browsed through the costume section, knowing I would not be getting anything. I was senselessly killing time. I found a hair clip, a small bow adorned with a pattered fabric that resembled textiles I had seen from Mexico or Guatemala. I picked up different colored bows, eventually finding a small green one. I used the same mirror I had used when I tried on the articles of clothes. I picked up a bit of my hair, clipped it to the right side, and tilted my head slightly. I decided to take it with me.
Over at the store counter, I flicked through a stack of old photos, possibly from the 80s or 90s of yellow Mardi Gras Indians, little kids, parents, and some guys walking out of a theater. It felt odd browsing through the photos of strangers; they were private and distant memories. Black, white families from the old New Orleans: weddings, babies being carried, friends gathered in a living room. I found a set of small photos that had a rare cut of paper. They were small, maybe 4×3 and the edges were jagged. They depicted a castle and its surroundings. Each one had a different part of the entire scenery: a lake, a bridge, a view from afar towards the castle, and finally the castle up close, or perhaps I saw them in reverse. They were numbered on the bottom, but it was almost hard to see. I realized, I didn’t care much for castles, and put it down. I wondered if it was possible to re-create the look of the black & white hue, along with the soft, thick paper and its jagged edges.