Dinner at Gibson’s for the past six nights always left me with a gravy stained napkin, a half empty mug of coffee and a photo of a smiling high school senior clutching a football. David’s ex-girlfriend Betty Rae had poured my coffee every night. Headlights shone into the diner, temporarily blinding Betty Rae with distraction. Still, it took her too long to collect her thoughts and continue with her story. She rambled on and on about the bowling club at the high school she attended with David. I smoothed the crease in my pants as the gum in her mouth lost flavor. She seemed to have never grown up. A pink bubble withdrew from her mouth fast. She took orders from gentlemen at the end of the counter. No eye contact. Swift penmanship. Perfect handwriting. I almost didn’t recall why I was there. Then the light bulb clicked again. For someone so dull, David sure had a way with girls. It had to be the stitching in his letterman jacket. I learned from his ex-girlfriend that David had a way with his hands. His fingers could pulsate an unfamiliar place, which soon became conquered territory. I could feel the crease of my pants growing again. I didn’t know much about this man except his letterman jacket should have been hung in the Smithsonian.
The next night I came in another waitress by the name of Myrna told me Betty Rae had the night off. I asked her about David. I began to understand that most of the people who stay in this part of the city all knew each other. Myrna’s face was perplexed. She said that there would never be anyone with that name in this city. The beat of my blood met the steel of the fork.
Thirty-three and a third miles outside of New Orleans and the heat grew under pressure. I had changed into khakis in the back of my car then finally got around to cleaning up Frito chip bags and Ho Ho’s. Cravings hit me solid as a rock.
Gas cheapened exactly every thirty-three and a third mile going southeast. I lost count of how many stops I made. I laughed to myself as I let the fuel drip from the nozzle. Unbeknownst to me, I had been in a bowling enthusiast city. There was a bowling alley on every other corner. David Addley was a bowling technique. The guy in the picture? A young man posing for a stock photo. The heat persuaded the delusion, which encouraged the laughter.
Pins hitting hardwood floor welcomed an unfamiliar sound to me. Families glued to each bowler participating in the tournament. College boys rejected from fraternities made a section in a corner booth. New Orleans bred excitement and devastation all in an unmeasured radius. I found a chair and watched a bowler get into position. A brass band played outside, their costumes untouched by pulsating ground. I spotted the section of bowlers participating in the tournament. Seven men in different hair stages sat on the bench. That was about as much the diversity the bowlers had from each other.
The bowler finally got into some kind of position. The audience stared with bated breath. One-step, two-step, the ball rolled seamlessly and crashed into the pins. Strike. The audience clapped softly and it tickled me. Like they attended a golf tournament. The rejected frat boys looked thoroughly confused.
My eyes moved onto the next player. His jacket was green and gold. The curl of the hair was full of gray and strikingly familiar. Somehow as my body tried to become together again, I remembered how David was described. Curl of the hair, letterman jacket that had been engrained in my temples, loafers and khakis. I turned my head and saw a poster in psychedelic print. Tonight was retro night, a homage to the Addley technique. No wonder why no one spoke. Everyone was in awe. My mind felt at peace.
I decided to drive to New York City, where things were strange on purpose. I expect a downpour that would wash my car of the sins from the South. After a last load up in Jersey, I would almost see the twinkle and smell the debauchery of what could live.
I never want to see the fall of a bowling pin again. I did keep the picture in my back pocket for good luck.