Missed opportunity

Published 9:15 am Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The hollow eyes stared blankly from her smudged face. Was it dirt or makeup smeared on the pale skin encasing those sunken eyes? I couldn’t tell. Her eyes haunted me.

What was running through the mind behind those dark, glassy marbles? Was she praying for someone to love her? Was she a prostitute, a runaway? How does a beautiful young girl wind up sitting alone on a filthy street in New Orleans begging for change?

Smells of urine and alcohol mixed with body odor assaulted my nostrils. I wondered to myself, what am I doing here? Bourbon, the street famous for letting the good times roll, left me empty and sad.

Decadence, excess and hilarity surrounded me. Clownish smiling masks adorned the heads of the throng of people where their faces should have been. I was once able to saunter down this street with the rest, oblivious to the suffering, but no more. Waves of nausea threatened to overwhelm me.

Grown men lured people into their establishments by grinding their hips suggestively. Their raunchy behavior elicited squeals of laughter from the mostly drunken crowd.

Kids dressed up for a school dance wandered through the crowd wide eyed at all they had been missing. Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, they stumbled into a place where everything was topsy-turvy. These kids have no business here, I grumbled to myself. Nor do I. Next, we passed the clubs with exotic dancers. Finally, we turned around to leave.

I thought of the girl begging for change and her beautiful sad face but didn’t allow my mind to linger there. Instead a steady barrage hit me. The street is so filthy. You would have nowhere to sit if you tried to talk to her. She is probably high and might spit on you. There is no telling what kind of disease she might be carrying!

I walked away as quickly as I could, not looking to the right or left. Mike could barely keep up with me, but his appetite for Bourbon Street had been whetted, so he didn’t complain. “Can’t wait to get away from this Godforsaken place,” I thought.

Jazz music greeted my companions and me as we leisurely enjoyed our Sunday brunch in the courtyard of The Quarter House the next morning. Our weekend in New Orleans with family was coming to a close. What fun we had had at the Art Museum and the local eateries. Music at the Mint and riding through the Garden District by streetcar made for good memories to savor on less exciting days.

Our handsome son, Manny, held his wrists up for me to button his dress shirt as we sat in the sanctuary of First Baptist New Orleans. I smiled and proudly looked at Manny on my right and Mike on my left. How I loved worshiping with two of my favorite people!

The wind whipped through our hair as we basked in the gorgeous sunshine on our way to lunch. What a great day to ride with the top down in Manny’s convertible!

A shadow of sorrow slipped over my soul as a hollow eyed face, pale and beautiful came to mind. Amidst the sunshine, I felt like weeping.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at lilsisjan@yahoo.com.