Landscapes with Lester

September

It starts when I see Lester again: at the bus stop. His hair is matted into a solid white cloud, and his beard is long. He has lost an eye. His remaining eye is blood-red. He is drunker than drunk, clothes standing stiff with dirt.

We embrace kind of hysterically, jumping up and down on the sidewalk. It was Hurricane Katrina time in Texas when we were last together. He was one of the 7,000 evacuees brought to Austin on the weekend of September 2, 2005—one of 220,000 that came to Texas. In the shelter he wore crisp white T-shirts, ironed jeans with a belt, a fresh haircut, and a watch. Now it is 2008. He has lost an eye and is so soaked with drink that his organs could give out. A dark, wet cavity slips on the right side of his high-cheekboned face—the socket not yet healed. “What happened, sweetheart?” I ask.

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