Photo: Infrogmation of New Orleans, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia Commons

I drink a beer that tastes like lemons. The TV is loud. The man next to me, a stranger turned comrade in our mutual attack to get the attention of the bartender, is smiling. He asks if I’m rooting for one team over the other. I tell him I just want everyone to have fun. He laughs. He talks. He’s a regular, he tells me. That’s why Trish thinks it’s funny to ignore me, he says, side-eyeing the bartender. She usually doesn’t work this shift so she doesn’t have to deal with the riff raff.

I have found in general that men often think women talk more than they do, and because of this, I don’t actually have to say much to have full conversations with drunk men. I have learned how to lean in so others’ stories appear interesting, how to force my eyes to stay focused; interested. I mhm and wow. I have had a hundred conversations like this, with drunk men who do not remember me and who I forget just as quickly. We are passing time together, forgettable as the taste of our cheap beers. I am fine with listening to drunk men when they don’t hit on me and this man, I like just fine.

He tells me about the weather that day as if I haven’t been in it, so fucking hot, he works outside you know, but he’s thankful for no hurricanes yet this year. He tells me if I want the joint behind his ear, I can have it.

I ask him what he does, how long he’s been here in New Orleans.

He tells me he works on houses most of the time, that there was a big uptick in business a few years ago with all the shit that happened. He is smiling, laughing, drinking his beer. He’s in a good mood. He tells me he’s lived here for twenty something years, left briefly after Katrina and again after Ida, but always came back. He tells me about finding a friend with no pulse after Ida. He is serious here, orders another beer. They grew up together, he says. Boston, it’s cold up there so I could never stay for long.

He tells me he saw the Red Sox win the World Series once, and you know, it was incredible. They were underdogs. It was a miracle. Behind him, a disco ball swings bright from the sun and it hits my eyes, hard, so hard I must squint to see him.

I was there, he repeats to me, his words slipping down his tongue too fast to control. I remember.

But his friend. Dead for three days, he said. He points to his nose, stabs at the rim.

I can still smell him. I will never forget it.

He drinks his beer. Mine is long gone.

I do not know what to say. I have never seen a miracle before. I have never found a dead man. I’m so sorry, I say. That’s terrible. Language tastes like blood. It is not enough now, but it is all I have to give.

It’s okay, he says, standing. He untucks the joint from his ear and holds it in his hand like a pen. He slips out of the bar like a shadow, and I go on with the rest of my life.

I have been back at that bar and did not see him. I don’t know if he would recognize me anyways. Why would he? I am just a girl who smiled at his stories and didn’t know what to say. How does this story end? I am still thinking about him. I remember now too.

Kirsten Reneau is a writer living in New Orleans. She has a book (Sensitive Creatures, out now with Belle Point Press) and a website (