On September 11th, 2001, I was sitting in a wrought iron chair outside my little New Orleans apartment I’d just rented, waiting for the Bell South phone guy to show up and plug me in. There was a big security gate you had to come through to get into the grounds of the old house on Jackson Avenue that had been cut up into tiny apartments.
I’d only been back in the country for a few months. In July I had finished my Peace Corps service in Mongolia, flew to Seattle for a couple weeks, where I spent all my money before taking a Greyhound bus all the way to Houston, which was close enough to have someone from my family in Louisiana to come pick me up.
My rent was 375 a month, just barely within my financial reach. Everything I had to set up that first post Peace Corps place was a hand-me-down. The old Hitachi rice cooker, along with most of the other kitchen items, had belonged to my grandma. She had died in May. Between my Maw-maw’s kitchen stuff and the old Apple computer my sister had given me, I was ready to be a New Orleans writer.
Except that the girl I’d dated all through Peace Corps, the one I thought I would just have to live without now that were both back in the states . . . well, it turned out I couldn’t live without her after all. Which was problematic enough, but to make matters worse she had decided she was gonna join the Air Force.
Of all the things to do after you just finished a two year stint in the Peace Corps, to turn around and join the War Corps seemed like the stupidest thing possible. Except that the girl was anything but stupid. And there was still this nagging feeling that I couldn’t live without her.
And to top it off, it looked like the U.S. was suddenly at war. Somebody walking by on the sidewalk saw me sitting out there, waiting for the phone guy, and so he clued me in about the plane hitting the tower in New York. So I went inside to play with the rabbit ears on the old TV somebody had given me, and I got a signal just in time to see the second plane come in.
I ended up living in New Orleans for just shy of a year. By the following May, me and the girl had married. She was already an officer in the Air Force by then, and I would start my own training in the west Texas town of San Angelo that summer.
My plan of being a full time New Orleans writer didn’t really survive first contact, but neither did it die off. It survived in a dormant state through Texas, then Maryland, D.C., Germany, and northern Virginia. And now as I sit here in my home office in Belgium, twenty years later, with one novel under my belt and the second one on schedule to come out next month . . . well, it turns out, it was only a dream deferred.