Sketches from the Heart of a Texas Artist: Part V
I stood at the corner of Decatur and Conti and took a sip of wine from a plastic cup. Perhaps I could drink through the fear and anxiety. The lacy Pontabla-inspired, cast iron balconies, resting atop the Spanish-influenced galleries of the Quarter trapped the swampy summer heat. I headed toward Canal street where I knew I'd find a street car. I could feel the shadow luring me toward it. I kept reaching my hand under the flap of my Louis Vuitton bag to to make sure my revolver was still there, but it didn't matter. It wasn't going to do me any good. I sat quietly on the street car and watched the St. Charles antebellum mansions pass by. This ride seemed to take longer than usual. I let my mind wander. I thought back to what initially brought me to New Orleans: my birth into a loving Catholic family. Raised to believe and have faith in the word of the Lord, I grew up trusting that everything would be all right. I thought about what kept me returning to this city. Again, the theme of love continued to arise. From a boyfriend, to a husband, I was always here accompanied by someone who cared for me unconditionally. So how could I be brought back by a dark shadow that represents the antithesis of love? Why was I being brought here to face my overwhelming loneliness?
The streetcar driver pulled the brake and turned the wheel to open the door. "Audubon Park!” Her voice echoed to the back of the car. I slung my bag over my shoulder and stepped off the trolley. I stood on the neutral ground between Loyola University and the park, facing the large statue of Jesus that greets eager-to-learn college students on a daily basis. I stared at the arms of the statue, extended outward, offering his unconditional love. I wanted to step toward him and bask in the comfort of his presence, but I could feel the shadow pulling me from behind. I stopped resisting, turned around and ran toward the park. Now paralyzed by anxiety, I fell to the ground beneath a live oak tree. I began to weep uncontrollably. The shadow didn't console me. It just pushed my shoulders forward. I hunched over and pulled my knees toward my chest. This was that lonely feeling that I had been fighting to escape. I couldn't move. My body ached. My heart sunk to my core andmy upper body went numb. I fell to my back and stared at the sky through the branches of the tree that I lay beneath. I watched clouds roll by through tear filled eyes. The shadow was winning. I rolled to my side, now facing the statue of Jesus, his arms still extended toward me. My mind swam in a pool of fearful anxiety: fear of a life of loneliness. I blankly stared at Jesus's face and in the back of my mind, I heard the words, "cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
I turned my head back to the sky and witnessed the clouds roll by with more intensity, like the violent ocean swell I saw in Madame de la Maison's eyes. The shadow pushed its weight down on me, and I breathed it in, then exhaled toward the clouds. I heardMadame de la Maison's voice over and over again. "Breathe... Relax." I continued to inhale with the shadow’s weight and exhale upward. The clouds darkened and swelled, covered the entire sky, then the shadow disappeared. I was left in a gray abyss when the rain began to fall. I sat up and let the water hit my shoulders and roll down my back. I continued my rhythmic breathing as traces of pain and fear rose from my soul and puddled on the ground beside me. I ran my fingers through the mud, feeling the coarse grit. With pieces of God's earth in my hands, I began to understand why I was lured here. I began to understand how my upbringing secured me with a faith strong enough to live harmoniously with inescapable emotions like loneliness and fear.