The New Yorkers of Tidewater
They wore rings on their toes and billowing pajama pants that let their legs shine through when they walked circles around Episcopal churchyards during Sunday services. They spoke in tongues, r-less ends of words and hip-hop rhymes, and when they said fuck you, they really meant hello.
They whirled, naked, like dervishes in lit-up houses to midnight music that didn’t rhyme with Dixie and gunned down back roads in an old metal box that had never tasted high tide. They wrote incomprehensible free verse and composed rebel ballads of the North. They sent invitations, holding wild parties for two in their basement. They liked their vinyl scratchy and true.
They ate smooth gelato and scungilli from the tin, looked for Ethiopian bread in all the wrong places. In the morning (never later) they ordered caffè latte instead of milk. Once, they tried softshells and sweet tea, but only as an experiment. They sculpted modern art snowmen out of cold grits, added smileys with leftover pimiento cheese.
They were big town in a small town, overdressed and over the top, kicking a beat to Sondheim in scarred leather jackets from Bergdorf’s. They invented Rollerblade Cornhole and Alvin Ailey Tai Chi and other games no one wanted to play. They attended straw-hatted garden parties from behind their porch screen, sure their invitations had been lost in the mail.
They voted for Her and rallied against guns and bathroom laws, smoked cigarettes made of non-native leaves. They mispronounced Tagliaferro and left the r in Norfolk. Old Virginia passed them on streets, speaking in tongues, r-less and soulless, and when it said hello, it really meant go home.
They wore rings on their toes and left on a Sunday during services, waving from the windows of their metal box, yelling fuck you, but only meaning goodbye.
Christina Dalcher lives, writes, and teaches in The Land of Styron and Barbecue. Find her work in After the Pause, Maudlin House, and Zetetic, or forthcoming in *82 Review and Bartleby Snopes. She is online at www.christinadalcher.com and @CVDalcher.
Photo by Marta Z