I really enjoy the rain. My anthem could be “I’m Only Happy When it Rains”, by Garbage. Coming from upstate New York, I am accustomed to rain in the summer. I can handle the heat, barely, but can handle it. I just like the scent of the rain, the cooling that rain brings, and the feeling of cleansing.
I had recently moved from upstate to San Antonio, Texas, to the Beacon Hill neighborhood. It had what I loved, parks, gardens, outdoor, public art, but there hadn’t been rain since my move into my one-story blue bungalow home. I loved the house I rented. It was cozy. As a career writer, I could sit on my front porch and write, or write from my bedroom overlooking my myrtle and wisteria plants. I ran my sprinkler in the back yard for my plants. I was starting to doubt my decision to move here. Maybe it was to severe a response to the dissolution of my 5 year relationship and overall boredom with life. Not only was there an actual drought, but I was experiencing a dating drought. As I sat on my front porch in my short all’s, black tank top and black converse, with an iced sun tea in hand, I pondered going to the grocery store.
I need groceries, so I should go, but I’m lazy. I hadn’t done much all day, so I shoved my feet in my black cowboy boots, grabbed my beat-up Vanity fair canvas bag with band patches holding it together, and grabbed reusable shopping bags from my favorite witchy online bath and body company. My fashion choices were changing, but I was still my same old witchy self. I had invested in an old used green ford pickup truck though. I drove to the grocery store blaring some Willie Nelson music. I was always a fan of older country music, but more recent tunes were working their way into my repertoire.
I went through the isles of my local grocery store, ticking items off my grocery list. I decided to start to try baking with all the free time I had not dating. I bought the ingredients to make a peach pie and a pecan pie, as well as the ingredients to make my own queso, salsa, fried green tomatoes and micheladas. Maybe I would call up Mina, my one actual close friend I had, who was my friend before my move, and invite her over for queso and micheladas. She had been one of my besties, and the person who had convinced me to move. I had friends at the news office I worked at but they were more work friends. When I got home, I noticed a truck with a UHAUL hitched to the back of it. There was a tall thin glass of water getting out of the black GMC. I parked my car in the driveway and grabbed my bags out of the passenger seat of the truck.
“Howdy!”, My new neighbor shouted from the driveway next door. He had on a San Antonio Spurs basketball cap and black t-shirt with warn out jeans. I was trying to figure out what color his eyes were blue or green, or both.
“Hi! Welcome to the neighborhood!”, I exclaimed. He was an attractive man. He had a sultry voice with a twang that led me to believe he was from the south. He had sideburns that lead into a close shaven beard and mustache. He started walking over to me. I could feel nerves in my stomach.
“Hi, I’m Luke”, He said shaking my hand. His eyes were a blueish green.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Laurissa”.
“You have mermaid like blue hair. Do people call you Blue ever”.
“No. They don’t. My Dad used to call me Lefty, because I’m left-handed, but I’ve never really had a nickname”.
“Well, it’s nice, to meet you, Laurissa.”
“You too. Well, I need to get these groceries in the fridge. Have a good night.”
“You too, Blue”. I smiled. Was I blushing? I hope not. I put the groceries away and called Mina.
“Hey Mina, I am making queso and micheladas want to come over and hang on the porch?”.
“Sounds good. I can be over in an hour”.
“Sounds good. There might be a peach pie baking when you get here.”
“You are baking? Are you ok?”, She laughed.
“Well I mind as well take up a new hobby”.
“Well, I look forward to trying this pie”.
“I am using a premade crust, but, It will still be good. I will see you in an hour”. I found an easy pie recipe and got that in the oven. Then made the queso.
When Mina was over, the pie was on the cooling rack and my kitchen smelled like peachy heaven. I had a set up of queso, chips, and salsa, and micheladas. Mina had a playlist of Selena going and we sipped and munched.
“Did you notice you have a good-looking next-door neighbor moving in?”, Mina inquired.
“I noticed. He introduced himself earlier”.
“What do we know about him?”.
“Nothing. I didn’t ask him anything. We were just talking in passing.”
“Well get on that Laur”.
“If the opportunity presents itself. For all I know he could be gay or have a girlfriend”.
“Well, you won’t know unless you ask”.
“Ok. I’ll ask, eventually”.
“Why not bake him a welcome to the neighborhood pie”.
“Ok. I may have partaken in the unnatural act of baking but baking as a means of flirting is even more unnatural for me.
“Well see. If you do it once, it might feel more natural”, Mina pointed out.
“You are so hardheaded”.
“I am. It is one of my best qualities”.
“Hey. Do you hear that?”, Mina asked, turning down her playlist.
I listened. “It is the sound of a guitar.”
“I think it is coming from next door”.
“It sounds like it.” We sat and listened.
“He’s good”, She said.
“He is. I guess I could bake another pie tomorrow and bring over.
“Speaking of pie, let’s sample the one you just made.” I served the pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and we took our first bites. Mina swallowed her first bite. “This is good. You should make him one tomorrow”.
“Ok. I will”.
It was around 10:30pm when Mina left, and I cleaned up after our snack night. I could still hear guitar music. My new neighbor was playing a slow country/bluesy/folk song that I recognized from Spotify. The music stopped and I saw a light go on in what was his kitchen. He had the blinds open, and he was shirtless at the sink, pouring a glass of water. I just glanced at him. I did not want to be creepy. He was sun kissed, and his skin a shade darker than olive and his hair was dark, wavy, and cut close to his head. The light went out. I turned mine out too, locked my front door, and the glass door leading onto my back deck, and commenced my nighttime routine. I showered, moisturized with Ponds, moisturized my hands and feet with my favorite summery cotton candy scented lotion. I took off my vintage Chinese silk robe to sleep in my favorite t-shirt my Dad had bought me on one of his trips. He had passed away from cancer 3 years ago, and the shirt made me feel like I was getting a hug from Dad, something I missed. I pulled my wavy bordering on curly dark brown died blue hair back and took out my composition notebook that I used for fun writing. I started a poem about the drought and my current dating life. I fell asleep sometime after 12am and was up at 8:30am. I made myself a steaming cup of Café Bustelo, with a slice of cheddar cheese and a sliver of pie for breakfast. Then changed into a matching set of active ware tank top and pants in a purple that I purchased when I was feeling feminine. I had lost 30 pounds between the breakup, and the move, and moving somewhere where pretty much every day is a jogging day, I had lost weight, and become a daily jogger. I locked my door and did some stretching in my driveway. Next door was Luke grabbing his news paper from the end of his driveway. I didn’t know people still received physical paper delivery.
“Good morning, Blue!”, He called to me.
“Morning!”. I went on my 3-mile jog around my area, and was ready for a shower upon arriving home. I took a quick shower and decided to bake a peach pie to bring over to my neighbors. I did some household chores while the pie baked. When it was done, I threw a grey baggy Willie Nelson tank top over the sports bra I had on and tamed my hair with a red bandana used as a head band. I shoved my feet in my cowboy boots and walked over to Luke’s and knocked on his door. He answered the door in a pair of cargo shorts and New York Yankees t-shirt. A Yankees fan in San Antonio. That was a sight for sore eyes, as that was my baseball team.
“Hi”, I blushed.
“Howdy, neighbor”, He said jovially. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”.
“I wanted to bring you a welcome to the neighborhood pie”.
He unwrapped it a bit and smelled it. “A peach pie. It smells heavenly. Thank you kindly for thinking of me”.
“Yours is the 2nd one I’ve baked ever, so, I hope it tastes as good as it smells”.
“I’m sure it will”.
“Well, I have some errands to run. Enjoy your day!”.
“You too! Don’t be a stranger!”. I smiled and waved as I walked away.
I felt like shopping and looking at art, so I put on a little make up and headed to my favorite shopping area to look at antiques and vintage clothing and wander in and out of art galleries. I found a blue vase and some 70’s frosted and gold glass ware, and a vintage straw cowboy hat and white flowy blouse. I was in the mood for barbeque from my favorite restaurant that did a barbeque special on Sundays. I took a seat at the bar.
“Hey, Blue”, A friendly voice said that was now becoming familiar. Luke stood next to me at the bar. “Mind if I take a seat?”, He asked.
“I heard they do a good rib special here.”
“They do. That’s what brings me”. The bartender took our orders. I ordered my plate of ribs with a pacifico beer.
“So, Blue, you aren’t from here, are you?”.
“No. I’m from upstate New York.
“You’re a long way from home”.
“I am. I came here for change of scene after a breakup”.
“Really? Me too.”
“Where are you from?”.
“I am from everywhere”.
“Where were you born?”.
“I was born in Dallas, but my Mom moved us to Louisiana, when my Dad left. Since that is where her family is from. Then we moved back to Texas, I left for college and studied music in New York City”.
“Really? I lived there for a year”.
“Where in the City?”.
“Me too!”, He exclaimed.
“How long were you there?”, I asked.
“Just for college”, After college, I back packed around Paris and Madrid playing music, and came back stateside to work on a cattle ranch in Tennessee. “
“Wow. That sounds like an adventure”.
“It was fun. Tell me about you though”.
“I was born in upstate New York, moved to Queens, moved back, lost my Dad at 40, went through a break up, and here I am”.
“How long have you been here?”.
“About 6 months”.
“What do you do?”
“I write for a local publication. What about you?”.
“I give guitar lessons at the community center, as well as go into the elementary school to teach music part time”.
“You play well. I heard you last night”.
“You did? I hope I wasn’t loud”.
“Not at all. It was relaxing. I liked the song you were playing”.
“Do you like country music?”.
“I like the older stuff. Willie Nelson, and the 2000’s Rascal Flats and Keith Urban, but I am not into pop country and some of the new country. I like Americana and folky stuff, as well”.
“That sums up my tastes as well. Here’s what I am thinking. There is a rodeo Saturday about 40 mins away. Would you like to accompany me and after that we can go do some line dancing, maybe grab dinner along the way”.
“That sounds like fun, though I should warn you, the only line dancing I remember is from high school gym class”.
“Don’t worry, I’ll teach ya, darlin’.”
“Ok. I’d like that.”
“The rodeo starts at 7:30, so we will leave at 5:45, and grab dinner along the way”.
“Sounds like a plan”. Our food arrived and we marveled at it.
“This is a lot of food”, he said taking in the beef ribs, barbeque chicken, pork sausage, potato salad, and dirty rice on his plate”.
“I usually leave with leftovers and enough food for a whole other meal. I like to take the dirty rice, and cut up what’s left of the sausage, and then add jalapeno to it”.
“You are a writer and a cook?”, He asked.
“I’m not much of a cook. I just get bored and experiment with things.”.
“It sounds like a good recipe”. We took the first bites of our food.
“This is really good”, Luke affirmed.
“This place is part of my Sunday rotation for that reason”, I enthused.
“This dirty rice is on par with my Granny’s”, Luke marveled.
“Is this something she would make for you?”.
“Every Sunday, she would cook up dirty rice with okra, black eyed peas, and corn bread, and anyone that wasn’t busy would come over and we would all have dinner together. We lived across the street from her, so we were always there. Her creole cooking is what I grew up on.”
“Does your Mom make creole food too?”.
“She does the basics, but, I’d say a lot of what she does is soul food. My mom and sister own a soul food restaurant back home. “
“Do you cook any of your grandma’s dishes?”.
“I make her dirty rice and my Mom’s corn bread dressing. I also make my Dad’s gumbo and jambalaya, and latke’s. He’s Cajun and Jewish, but he left my Mom pretty early on and I know nothing really about his side of the family or his roots, but he made some mean latkes.”
“Is your Dad still alive?”.
“He is. We send each other cards every so often. He lives somewhere in Nashville now, but I get cards from Southern California sometimes. So, I think he travels there a lot. I haven’t seen him in a few years. I used to look him up and we would grab breakfast at Shoney’s if ever I was in town, but that hasn’t happened in a while”.
“It’s ok. I have my Mom and my sister in Dallas. Are you close to your family?”.
“I am. My Dad was my best friend and that person who loved me unconditionally and his parent’s home was our second home. My parents were divorced before Dad passed. I get along with Mom and my sisters too and we see each other every chance we get. My Grandma and Uncle are really conservative though and I don’t see them much and my grandma has dementia, so she really hates leaving the house. I get along with my cousins and my uncle’s ex-wife though. I am closer to her then him.
“Family can be complicated”.
“And if you come from a half Italian family like mine it can get loud”, I laughed. When we were done eating, we settled our bills.
“I enjoyed our dinner together. The chat and the food were good, and I really enjoyed your company”.
“I enjoyed yours”, I replied. I wasn’t sure how to say goodbye. I am not a hugger, I am more a bro tapper, but that would be weird. “Well, I have a meeting with my editor tomorrow morning, and then an interview over lunch tomorrow, so, I guess I will be heading home to prepare for the day”.
“See ya later, neighbor”.
“See ya”, I said with a wave.
When I got home, put out an appropriate meeting and interview outfit. I chose black skinny pants, and a black embroidered Mexican huipil. I was looking forward to an interview with one of my favorite local mixed media artists. I hopped in the shower, and when I was out put on some yoga sweats and a bleached stained WU-Tang cutoff t-shirt. There was a knock on my front door. I looked out the peek hole to see Luke. I opened the door “Hey there”.
“I wanted to bring you this bouquet of flowers as I noticed you have a nice garden going in your back yard. I wanted to say thank you for the pie. I hope I’m not disturbing you at this hour”.
“Come on in. I walked into the kitchen, and he followed. These flowers smell good. Thanks for thinking of me “The bouquet was wrapped in tissue paper with a red ribbon around it. The bouquet had been hand assembled.
“They are from my back yard. Some of them attract hummingbirds, and some butterflies.”
“Really. That is so cool.”
“Do you like flowers?”
“I do. I am not the best gardener, but I try.”
“What is your favorite flower?”.
“Tiger lilies. I love the color”.
“I think I have some in my garden”.
“Oh fun. If you like these flowers, I can give you clippings to replant”.
“Thank you. I would enjoy that.” I took two new glasses out of my cupboard and went to grab my mason jar of sun tea from my refrigerator. “Would you like some sun tea. It’s a mix of green, mint, and rose”.
“That sounds good. Thank you”. I poured us our tea.