November 9, 2017
New Orleans, Louisiana
I drove the office car to the office. My coworker needed it, to go to the women’s prison in the abandoned children’s prison. I didn’t know when she was planning to leave, so I parked the car while it was still dark. My bike was chained to the rack and wet, because it rained last night. I didn’t sit down in the ten minutes it took me to bike back home.
It was very cold and wet, both in the ground and in the air. People often say annoying things to me about Louisiana being warm, meaning warmer than wherever they are, which is usually New York, or New Jersey. They are wrong, in November. The humidity turns cold, which is odd to try to imagine, but true.
I put gloves on and went running, staying on the pavement, because there was water in the grass. The wind was the worst on the bridge near the bayou, at the south end of City Park. I ran in the pedestrian addendum on the right. The bridge arcs, and on the far side I saw a man in a gray cloth head covering and a hood, running towards me. He had more gear than I did and was running more quickly. When we passed, he gave me a thumbs up. I felt very proud of myself and smiled a lot at no one for five strides.
At home I took a hot shower and ate oatmeal, and then I biked back to work, this time with a plastic bag over my bike seat. In the office people complained about things being cold and wet.
An intern has been scanning the physical file of one of my cases, organizing it into the way it should be, digitally. He’s put pink post-its on all the documents that hadn’t been scanned prior. There was an envelope with an illuminating date. But there were some mistakes—he scanned only the front of one paper, rather than the front and back; he titled something “Online Searches” rather than “Online Searches of——–, ———, and ———,” which would have been more helpful; he keeps on titling things “Notes” when they are actually very different things, such as requests to visit prisons, or old motions, or print-outs of email correspondence.
I sent sending him three emails in a row outlining these mistakes, as I found them. I felt bad, so I added exclamation points in warm places; then I thought about recent things I’ve read and heard about the feminine impulse to add exclamation points in professional emails, to soften ourselves; then I moved on.
Another investigator and I were going to drive out to try and speak to someone. I’d rented us a car, since our coworker had the office car. I thought about how I am going to buy a car. I walked to pick up the rental car and passed a homeless man my age selling “WATER ANYTHING HELPS.” I thought about selling ANYTHING. I didn’t give him ANYTHING.
At Enterprise, they had only three minivans. I’d requested not a minivan. A gray sedan had just pulled into the lot and they said they could see if that was returning, and clean it. I said I would appreciate that, and they didn’t really have to clean it; it’s all right. I didn’t want to drive to this person’s home in a minivan. I thought that it would give the wrong impression.
The Enterprise bathroom had three vanity lights above the mirror, like in a dressing room backstage. This felt incongruous.
Two of the Enterprise agents pulled the sedan up to the side door and asked me to take a look.
“It’s full of dog hair,” said the female employee.
“Just dog hair?” I asked.
“Yeah, but it’s everywhere.”
I looked inside; there was some dog hair.
“It will only take us a minute to clean it.”
“Ok,” I said.
Fifteen minutes later I got back to my office. The other investigator was talking to a client.
We drove for two hours and forty minutes to where we thought one person lived. On the way, we stopped at a gas station that was also a casino. I bought salted cashews and tried to buy gas, but the pump stopped pumping after four dollars’ worth. The screen said, “PUMP STOPPED.” I gave in and decided we were fine to keep going.
The other investigator commented, as we got closer, on the variety of what must be Confederate flags. They have different signage than you would expect, but somehow made the same impression. I hadn’t noticed. I’d been looking at the road. I did notice a bar angled next to a railroad, so that anyone driving toward it would see the length of its side-wall, all of which is a single painted Confederate flag.
The man was not home. A woman I assumed was his wife answered the door and said he was working, and asked why we want to speak to him. She said working another twelve hours the next day. He should be home Thursday, or Friday. No particular time was better than another.
My coworker and I left to drive home. The gas light came on after about an hour, but all the gas stations were on the other side of the road, so we kept going. Two of the gas station casinos had large neon signs that said CASINO, but the neon only worked on the CAS. This looked like they said GAS, which made sense, because the stations also have gas. I wondered if this was intentional, and clever. I went to the bathroom where we stop. It was around the back; I squatted.
I like to listen to female pop when I have been driving for many hours, especially on the last stretch of the highway, at the edge of the lake, over the water in the swamp. I put on Ariana Grande’s new album, and mentioned to my coworker how I always get emotional on this part of the drive, and that thank u, next, has really been speaking to me lately. He seemed not unhappy, but not similarly spoken to. Eventually Billie Eilish came on and sang very clearly and slowly about being kissed on the neck. I was uncomfortable listening to this with him in such a small car, but also would have felt uncomfortable changing it, so I pretended I didn’t notice.
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