He saw us as we crossed Decatur at St. Peter. There were others watching, they would stare but any glance in their direction and they would quickly lower their eyes and nervously fidget. Amusing behavior considering the sun had long since set and this crowd was reputed as an edgier variety. That mattered not at all when we met their gaze and they became adults acting like children getting caught doing something they shouldn’t.
However, he was different. I could feel his silent plea for attention; not dramatic just acknowledgement between living beings. He was curious, lonely and felt a kinship with us. He wasn’t afraid, he was interested. But under those superficial desires were deeper needs.
He had set up his table the farthest away from what I refer to Jackson Square Central, which is right in front of St. Louis and the Cabildo, and very close to Decatur. I grinned inwardly – he was clever. This was a particularly positive trait to possess in his case since he was also totally alone. You don’t work the Quarter alone at night for very long if you are stupid, the two are mutually exclusive.
I gave him a moment as I walked a couple more steps then looked directly at him. At first he returned my look, nothing more. Then it changed to that of a young boy sitting in class and surprised to find the teacher talking about a subject he was actually interested in. As I continued to walk I kept eye contact until he broke his silence and hollered, “How ya doing?” At this I dropped my gaze as I grinned, answered him and asked him the same.
The ice was broken and his reply was warm and honest and followed by an invitation to come over. As we kept walking toward our destination, I explained that we had need of food since we had yet to eat that day. This was very true and compiled with the added complication that it was getting late and one of the few establishments that would serve our ‘kind’ (and shall remain nameless so as to prevent revealing their association with us thereby possibly damaging their business reputation), would be closing soon. He sank a bit physically but extended the invitation again, this time for after we had supped. I assured him that I would if he was still there.
Fortunately, we did make our destination before it closed and were thankfully nourished. Afterwards, we were anxious to explore the Vieux Carre after such an extended absence but I could not forget about the clever but needy one who probably was waiting on my return. So, instead we turned toward Jackson Square to see if he still remained.
As expected, he was there and as he saw us approach I could see him visibly relax as he sat back in his chair with a smile of relief.
“I was worried you forgot and weren’t coming back,” he said as I got conversationally close.
“No, just needed sustenance,” I said as I came to a stop behind the empty chair across the table from him.
His smile weakened as a wide-eyed exhausted look slid into its place. “Well, I’m glad you didn’t.”
I smiled softly then gestured at his table, “What you got going here?”
He looked down and sat back a bit from the table as if it had suddenly appeared there out of thin air. Then he looked back up at me for a second, gestured to the empty chair and asked me to sit. After I was seated he explained what he had to offer, his blue fingernail- tipped hands gesturing over the surface of the table excitedly. We bartered a deal and he began.
My attention was split between the candle that flickered to my right and his chipping blue polish. It was a cobalt blue with a metallic sheen. I found it endearing but so painfully honest and revealing that I had a strong desire to tell him to stop, pack up and keep his hands hidden in his pockets as he walked to where he would stay that night.
As he began his consultation, I paid minimal attention to what he was saying. I was well acquainted with the shapes and meanings. I wanted to talk about his lover that had hurt him but he still loved, the lover he had now in exchange for shelter off the streets, the self-medicating in which he would indulge after he left here and before he got to his sleeping place. I wanted to talk with the strong, sweet, sensitive, athletic, misunderstood and confused young man he had been and still was despite his current situation. I wanted to tell him he didn’t need to lie and give him a hug that had no strings attached other than to provide him with the touch of another being that understood how much he needed it.
To follow through with any of these would have been a terrible mistake, of course, and would have only had a negative effect. As I’ve said before, answers gained through a psychic gift are never truly welcome and very much feared. So, with the end of his consultation and a few false starts on his part, he begrudgingly bid us a good night and we parted.
I took care to prevent any of my thoughts from accidentally transferring or making connection with him which can easily happen when emotions become involved. Not even when I remitted compensation for his consultation did we ever touch. However, his presence and his suffering lingered with me long past that night and as I write here to record our acquaintance, I offer up my care and regard in hopes that they will find the guides and souls that are close to him and communicate to him, much better than I ever could have in those moments:
That he was seen, appreciated and loved for the courageous and incredible person he was and is.
Adieu, jeune guerrier.