Magnolias and Danger

It’s a season full of beauty and fragrance. The jasmine is still going strong, and now the magnolias are in bloom. My cleaning lady has returned from her trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico. She brought me coconut-scented soap, and this morning we got to visit over coffee. I had Indian lunch with a good friend, and Vietnamese dinner with another. For a few fragrant breaths under the starlit sky, walking my dog in Old Town, I felt that maybe, just maybe, life could be beautiful in Beaumont. Then I noticed a young man singing loudly as he ran along the sidewalk on the other side. He had a good voice, but his presence on the dark lonely street was surreal. He stopped on the corner, started playing a banjo. Then he crossed to our side, and with each chord that drew nearer, I hastened my pace. I ended up running, small dog in tow, and when I was safely behind my locked door, I drew my breath and reminded myself that no, no, no, this never was and never will be a place for me. The trains whistled indifferently in the distance. And I just sat there remembering how menacing the dark loneliness of this place can get, and how much strangeness there is here. Yes, I love Spanish moss and alligators, love the bayou, the trains, the dark poetry of it all, the gumbo and the music, the slight edge of danger even, but there is nothing like a possibly deranged banjo player chasing you down a dark street to remind you that such drama is best left to books and movies, not something to seek out in real life.

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