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Moving South
by Katerina Charisi
2016-01-03 11:34:03
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"South. We are heading …South!" That's what my father used to say every time I got home from school and saw him waiting for me in the kitchen sitting on the old chair drinking beer, with the two old and large suitcases filled with our stuff next to him. Every single time he missed something in the houses we left behind. Always something that was mine. I couldn't stop wondering every time what was it. But I never was clearheaded enough to realize it before we left. Usually I found out the missing thing long after we settled in another place.

But all this was over. I separated my life from my father's at last. I wouldn't run away anymore. I like New Orleans and I like my job in Cafe Du Monde. I never thought I would enjoy so much carrying a tray, but it proved better than I thought at first place. And much cleaner than Hemming’s Garage. Ed is a great mechanic, but his nephew is a total dick.


One day I was walking fast - or run slowly- for work. My place is very close to the French Market, so I never really thought of buying a car yet. If I ever need one though, I can always go at Ed's. I don't have money for a car, anyway. It's a lovely day. But after all this time I know that weather is the least stable thing around here. Once I got inside the Cafe, the sky turned cement grey with thick, heavy clouds full of rain. The first raindrops fell on the large windows right when I grabbed the tray to start my shift.

el02_400My shifts are always full in Cafe Du Monde. It is a busy place anyway, but very soon I proved to be a skilled waiter, so all my shifts are scheduled for the "hardest" days and hours. I like it that way. Being busy satisfies my need for constant moving, plus it keeps my head occupied and my mind concentrated on my job. I don't want to mess things up and the tips are one more good excuse. A life like a fugitive with my gambler alcoholic father is one of the bad reasons I want to keep things right and steady.

Suzy is one of the waitresses I sometimes work with. She is fast and we communicate well. When our sift starts we decide our posts. Depending on the day, the time or the weather, we either choose the inside or the outside tables. But this time the weather messed things up, the place filled up inside fast, so we split up the room and I gave her the windows - that's how we call the tables closer to the windows- that are taken first.

People always choose these tables first, and I have noticed that they prefer looking outside, than their company. Rarely things are different, when fresh couples come along. Those are too busy getting lost in each other's eyes to waste time looking outside. Sometimes I catch myself wondering if I could ever feel this way.

Customers come and go, workers sit on the bar, fancy suited men come for a take away coffee, but always drink half of it in few large sips before they go. The workers talk loud and laugh. They are the only ones who drink beer so early in the morning. I lose track of time in days like these. I check my watch when I get in and the next time I check it again, it is almost time for my shift to end. 

Every time our eyes meet, Suzy smiles and winks at me. I like her; she is a nice girl. I don't like her boyfriend, but I never told her that. Not until I saw her one day with her wrist bandaged and her lip swollen, months later. This taught me to speak up when I feel it. But that's another story.

There's a bell hanging from the wall at the corner of the door, and it rings every time someone gets in or out. A cloud of smoke escapes when the door opens. I try not to pay attention to this bell, the noise is too much to be annoying, people talking, music playing, coffee makers, juicers, but I almost always turn my head when I hear it; It's a habit that I can't get rid of since I was a kid.


When my father lost it all - "I lost my job, my friend, my wife and my son, Josh boy; that's what happened to your old man"- he turned to another old friend for help, and this help was an even older favour that time had come for the return.  So he put this friend to rent a rat hole, brought a few green tables inside, built a tortuous bar with bricks that he stole from building sites, made some deals and there he was. That was all of the hard "work" he did. Then he just continued as always, drinking, gambling, bringing in new customers, until the next sucker comes so he could stick with him as a tick. That was his payment.

el03_400I never found out what really happened to my family. I know few things, I assumed more, but the stories are always settled on those details that make the difference every time and change the route - in every story. I could say my father was just a crook, and the worst kind of them. I hate gambling. I always did. Maybe because I lived it, I lived with it since my first days. Being an alcoholic or a drug addict only destroys your life. But gambling is something more. It destroys you and everyone around you, including your family, your kids and their future - especially if you put on their shoulders the weight of your debts. Thankfully I have no debts on my shoulder; not that I know of.

My father was worse. He gambled when he was young, but was smart enough to know that sooner or later there wouldn't be anything more left to gamble. As a former salesman he had the gift in "talking" to others, convincing them about stuff, so he started working in a different way. His new job was to sit on the green tables, drink for free and gamble with thin air, with money that wasn't his, but belonged to the owner of the place. He kept the cards dealing and the game going on.

There was always someone to become his best buddy. My father would stick with him for as long as he put his hands deep in his pockets, leaving his money on the table and filling my dad's pockets with his share. The problem was that my dad was greedy. The share wasn't enough, he wanted all for himself. So after a while, he left the place taking the new best friend with him and continue their games usually at our house. My father put everyone in the trick, his wife and his son too. Well, Paul was too young to know any of these things. But his wife knew and got sick of it.

She had to follow him and play this game, making a new, fake best friend in the poor wife's face, making Paul having friends that soon would disappear from his life, as sudden as they came. She hated him for that. She hated herself for that. Paul was the only one who actually suffered from all this that caused his mother an extremely flammable mood. And one long night that she broke and threw away every single of Paul's things, destroying his room and some other stuff in the house on her way, she took him and left. That's all I know. Since that night my father never saw her or Paul again. His friend asked him to leave. He had a little girl too and it seemed that Paul and she were too close. My father keeps moving since then, sticking at some place with someone and disappears when things turn bad. He just tries to predict the "things turn bad" point and leave before that.

Few years later he was left again by his new girlfriend, only this time he wasn't alone. His girlfriend left me with him and since then my life was here and there, waiting for the day I would get back home and find him waiting for me with the suitcases filled with our stuff, telling me that we are moving South Josh, we are moving …South. He didn't change a thing. But never got stuck again with someone who had kids. 


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