“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.”
New Orleans has always been a place where the mystical lives side by side with the mundane. They are familiar with one another, like old lovers who still meet up for the occasional rendezvous. During those brief moments together, sparks fly and magic happens. No matter how mesmerizing, those moments are always brief, often for a good reason.
Marie owned and ran a small restaurant downtown. It was just close enough to Bourbon Street to get the occasional bunch of tourists while still providing comfort to the locals. Marie found a rhythm to her work. Just before noon, an old Creole couple would come in, have some tea, and spend the rest of their time there arguing. At 12:30, a secretary from the law firm down the street came in. Depending on her day, she'd have a coffee or a bourbon while reading from her trashy novels. Around 1 PM, Ben arrived.
Ben's story was the story of so many before him and so many after. He came to New Orleans to make his fortune as a musician by night while building floats for Mardi Gras by day. He came in every day he could. Marie would always ask him what he wanted, and he would always think about it before asking for his usual, a jambalaya recipe passed down through her family.
Their shared routine became familiar. Soon, instead of idle conversation they had grown close. They shared their dreams and aspirations for the future. After some time, they grew to want each other to be a part of those dreams. What started as a casual friendship blossomed into an intensely beautiful romance.
But some things, no matter how beautiful, are not meant to last. This was the summer of 2005, when Hurricane Katrina descended upon the coast. Marie had survived, but her restaurant had been devastated. Ben's home, like many others, had been completely devastated by the storm, forcing him to leave the state.
Time passed. Marie spent that time trying to rebuild, cooking all the while with what little she had to help those in need. She had become a great source of comfort and help to those around her. It kept her busy, but her heart still yearned for Ben.
Some time passed before she finally heard from Ben. The devastation in his voice could only be matched by the devastation in Louisiana. His home, his jobs, everything he had struggled to work for had been destroyed by the storm. His dreams broken, Ben told Marie that he wasn't going to return to New Orleans.
Marie fought with Ben, pleading with him to change his mind. Wasn't she a part of his dreams? Hadn't they wanted to share their future with each other? As hard as she tried, Ben's heart had been lost to grief, another casualty of the storm.
Marie would not let love die. Grief-stricken and desperate, Marie asked her friend for guidance. Tallulah was sympathetic to the poor woman's plight, and she led her upstairs. Marie and Tallulah had been friends for many years, and Marie knew that Tallulah was infamous for her practice of voodoo. She lit candles in her attic and placed an amulet around her neck. She took some cloth, a needle, and some thread, and created a human shaped doll. She spoke some words over the doll, words that were too hushed to hear.
She gave Marie the amulet and two pins. "Magic," Tallulah began, "is about intent and purpose. What do you intend to do with this? Be honest with yourself. If you aren't, the magic will not answer to you."
Marie thought about it for a moment. Tears began to stream from her face. "I want," she said, "to have him in my life again. We talked so much about our future. He is my future, and I never allowed myself to say that to him. I want him to want to come back. I need him to."
Her voice rose higher with every word. Tallulah helped guide the pins in Marie's hands into the head and chest of the doll. Marie suddenly felt very tired, as if she had cried for hours. "It will take time," Tallulah said. "These things always do. Have faith, and keep the doll close to remind you of your heart's intent."
And time it took. Days went by, and New Orleans struggled on in its recovery. Marie turned her house into a refuge and began selling meals from the trunk of her car. She thought of Ben every day. Then, one day, Ben returned. Out of nowhere, he appeared on her doorstep. He told Marie he kept having dreams of New Orleans and of her. Marie embraced him, all the while thanking Tallulah for her charms. Their passion rekindled Ben's love for Marie, burning brighter and hotter than before the flood.
Despite the happiness their reunion brought, things were not the same anymore. Ben's sleep was often disturbed by his dreams. He always appeared tired. When she would leave for work, he would become sullen. Only she could help relax him.
Then, one day, their love burned away. Ben told Marie that he was leaving again. Marie, startled by this sudden shift, went back to her doll, its pins still at heart and mind. She thought to add more to the effigy, to make his love for her stronger.
It occurred to her that since Ben had returned, he had been fighting the urge to leave again. She realized then that she loved him too much to make him suffer, no matter how much she wanted to be with him. At least now, she got the chance to say goodbye. Tearfully, she removed the pins from the doll. She returned the doll to Tallulah, who sat with her and listened. Tallulah knew this could happen. Sometimes love fades, and sometimes it merely sleeps. Tallulah told Marie that she was right to be sad, but that she knew Marie would fall in love again.
Time passed, and traces of New Orleans' magic began to shine through again. Marie’s restaurant had been rebuilt and had never been busier. She was happy in her own way, blessed by the faces and lives that walked into her place. She had made a life here, and her dreams were where they'd always been. The rhythm and schedule that was her life began to start anew.
It was sometime during the period of her newfound happiness that the door to her restaraunt swung open and revealed Kevin, the next great love of her life. That, however, is another story for another day.