Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge, New Orleans, LA
Stories of Stories
I am made up of scribbled notes and dream journals and all the little things I am scared I’ll lose.
By Margaret Davenport
Here’s a story I love to tell: while I was studying abroad in Australia, my friend Nora fell down a waterfall and, essentially, cracked her head open. Listeners love this story because it includes a lot of dramatics. We were out of cell reception when she fell, so our friend Cameron had to sprint until he could call an ambulance. Nora had to be carried for a mile, until the paramedic could meet us. She kept asking us, “Why are you all looking at me like that?” This story also has political depth: it displays the benefits of Australia’s universal health care. Nora’s ambulance ride and hospital visit cost her less than $70 USD. The entire ordeal only took a few hours. No matter how many times I share this experience with a new audience, I am always thrilled by their worried gasps, thoughtful comments on health systems, and relief that Nora ended up completely fine (post-concussion recovery). Sometimes, if I am getting great reactions, I even share an additional bit about concussed Nora, Indonesia, and a sleeping bat.
I love sharing that story because it’s easy to tell. In fact, I just did it in eight sentences. But I don’t need to share that story. I don’t become seized with worry that if I don’t write it down or tell someone about it, I will lose that moment forever. For this reason, I update my journal like it is a morning newscast. I’ve filled out four in the past year and a half (over 800 pages). I have 26,425 pictures and videos saved on my phone from the past five years of my life. I keep every grocery list, even dating them most of the time. What if I forget about the three months of my life where I ate too much canned tuna? You can tell alot about me from that time period just by the phrase “too much canned tuna.” I don’t want to forget who she was (okay… who she is). I know other humans are made up of blood and bone. But I am not. I am made up of scribbled notes and dream journals and all the little things I am scared I’ll lose.
Here’s a story I desperately want to tell you: one night this past spring, I sat with my college friends, clustered around a concrete table-and-bench set (crooked umbrella included) in the backyard of Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge in New Orleans, LA. My friend Matt was telling an unreasonably complex story about breaking a million-dollar artistic mask in high school. His shirt had slowly unbuttoned throughout the night and his black-rimmed clubmaster glasses were one dramatic gesture away from flying off of his nose. The orange glow of his loosely gripped cigarette matched the cadence of his voice, flinging widely in the air. Matt tells stories the way an eighty-year-old man describes his childhood, despite living them just a few years ago. He often reminds everybody that he’s been a hard partier for too long to remember any specifics before describing the exact Vodka he was drinking, at the exact party, hosted by the exact girl, and in the exact Chicago apartment building (which he described and gave the cross streets of).
As Matt spoke, we all took turns adding commentary. His storytelling was only as good as our ability to appreciate it. After hearing Matt say, “Well, I went to the Catholic school downtown,” for the fifth time, our friend Anna mumbled, “Ah, Our Ladies Downtown,'' invoking images of concrete naked female bodies decorating the entrance of a church and nuns in mini skirts carrying red cocktails—fruit punch, the blood of Christ. The umbrella shook from our howling laughter, which lasted so long that Matt decided to start his story all over again.
Despite the lack of dramatics, political depth, and happy ending, I would tell you this story of a story over and over again because it is the perfect encapsulation of what I can’t quite figure out how to say. And maybe that’s why I am so scared to lose it. It represents a quiet loss. Laughing with my friends at 3:30 AM isn’t a part of my life like it once was. As we drove home from Snake and Jake’s, I wanted to bite into the asphalt road and chip my teeth gnawing on the cracks in the sidewalk. I would devour New Orleans if it meant I could carry the comfort of laughing in the dark with me wherever I go, my belly full of where I once belonged.
Matt now lives in Texas. I live in Colorado. Nora permanently moved to Australia. The rest of our friends are spread across the country—New York to New Orleans to San Francisco. We are all, in our own ways, happy. Yet I still grieve what I have lost to time: the cities I no longer live in, the homes I grew out of. I mourn the sunsets from the summer I lived in northern Minnesota and the first time I watched Little Miss Sunshine in the family room. Some nights, I even lament over never knowing my mother in her twenties. What would she say if I could call her 24-year-old self on the phone? What’s on her grocery list? Sometimes I think the best moments of my life will pass me by without ever realizing they’re mine. There is nothing I can do with this sorrow but find relief in sharing the stories of times when I didn’t know my life would move on.