Julia, the stroke of luck
I met Julia at a desert art festival in Nevada when I was 19. She was dressed as an angel, with a flask in her garter, and I was lumbering along the cracked alkali bed in a loincloth, bottle of Castillo in hand.
After 10 or 15 minutes of sharing swigs from the bottle and making out, we decided to get married, and off we went to a quickie chapel. After that, I don’t remember much. I awoke wrapped in a tarp next to the bay of portapotties, completely naked, save war paint. I spent the rest of the week searching for Julia, to no avail. I left the desert wifeless.
That winter I decided to leave Olympia for good. I loaded up my truck with everything I owned and drove in the general direction of New Orleans, not really caring where I ended up. It was an optimistic time period for me. Things still had that fierce newness to them, a shine afforded only to those still dizzied by the immense possibilities of life—a sense that, with every pressed moment against that accelerator, you are getting closer to something completely new. Cold beer, local grub and strangers with strange stories all lay in wait.
In Austin, I stayed with a couple I met at a diner and we shared road stories. Eventually, my marriage with Julia came up. The couple gave each other knowing eyes as I spoke and then asked, “Wait—did this Julia have a sister named Monica?”
“Well, yeah. I can’t believe I remembered that…”
“Fella, we’re practically in-laws. She lives just a few blocks from here.”
Talk about dumb luck. I wandered over to her place and knocked on the door. She answered, gave me a look of complete shock; then, she gathered herself.
“Oh, hubby!” she squealed. Serendipity was smiling down on me.
I walked into her place, which smelled of countless meatloafs and casseroles. A Texas-shaped, dark varnished clock was on the wall next to a commemorative plate of George Bush; this obviously wasn’t her house but her parents’. People were everywhere, sipping on Budweiser; apparently I’d just crashed Julia’s family reunion.
“Everybody,” Julia said, “this is my, uh—friend. Say hello to Knox.”
Her brothers decided to take me out that night to see what I was made of – they weren’t about to let some Yankee date their kid sister unless he passed muster. This involved heavy drinking, reckless driving, getting into a bar brawl and then leaping off a train bridge into a river. Real Wahoo, maverick shit that I’ve since come to love.
Three days later I woke up in New Orleans, wrapped in a tarp next to the levy, shirtless, wearing American flag bell bottoms, missing a shoe. Julia and her brothers were nowhere to be found. Looking around, I realized it was Mardi Gras, and I wasn’t sure, if not for the millionth time, what to feel. I carved, “Knox hearts Julia” into a Cyprus tree and wandered off to find my truck, pondering what it meant to have such good and bad luck at the same time.
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