Port Allen

Port Allen
by Louis Bourgeois

On the way to the perennial drag races, my father’s friend Bill Bolling, who years later would die alone in his solid brick house on the outskirts of Slidell, Louisiana—near the marsh and industrial junkyard, where rats scuttle across pieces of large motors and metallic debris of skyscrapers, factories, discarded warehouses and thousands of dead telephone polls—of an epileptic overdose of sorts brought on by extreme diabetes at the age of fifty and was found in his house two years after he was dead, just a mass of black bones and petrified filaments and other tough sinew, said, “There’s the whorehouse.” Bill was a sailor, so when we passed the hideous two story motel across the river from Baton Rouge, it wasn’t very surprising when he uttered these words as if he was releasing information just for me, even though there were five of us in the van; me, Bill, my dad, a cousin and an uncle.

At the drag strip, tires melted one after the other, engines caught on fire, women swooned in submission to so much mechanical power, and the men almost died from exposure of so much High-Tech energy.

None of them melted as intensely as I did. I couldn’t think about anything except for what Bill had said back in the van, “There’s the whorehouse.” This Bill who is now dead still says these words in my mind, There’s the whorehouse, there’s the whorehouse. Say it again, Bill, “There’s the whorehouse”. Has anyone in America in the 21st century even heard of a whorehouse? This whorehouse, which was only about five miles away from where I lived on campus at L.S.U.

And I didn’t know it was a whorehouse until Bill told me so, even though I had passed it by many times on drunken bouts to the country side, on the other side of the river, to screw girls on the levee where sometimes we were almost trampled to death by free roaming cows. The whorehouse concretized all my hopes of unlimited sex on demand, without any social song and dance to perform, my mind darkened with transcendental thoughts of pure and absolute sex.

The drag racing was over again until the next year and on the way back we stopped at a barbeque restaurant and ate huge amounts of shredded meat.

Out with the boys, etc.

Then they dropped me off on Campus and I headed back to my dorm room with a severe determination to study Latin and Greek, trying really hard to get my mind off the whorehouse. But the more I tried not to think about it, the more impossible it became to think about anything else. Translating Catullus only made it worse. He must have written his poems with a constant hard on.

And almost overnight it got really cold and windy like never before, so I donned the tattered coat my father gave me for such weather and rang for a taxi to take me across the Mississippi River, to Port Allen, to make contact with the whorehouse, to see if it was real and not a figment of Bill’s wishful sailor mind.

And the taxi driver dropped me off against a backdrop of an industrial nightmare, mostly chemical plants bellowing out huge clouds of white smoke. There were Asian massage parlors and shabby porno cinemas that feed the Industrial Machine’s strong desire for… The wind blew hard against me and an empty sleeve streamed behind me, a black flag of a former self, and I began thinking that only a one-armed twenty-two year old Classics major of peasant stock would be approaching the town in such a way, walking toward the sex factory with such dread and glee, a hundred women standing at a hundred different doorways to their respective rooms, waiting for me to join them. I felt no Catholic Guilt as I walked toward them, only a sense of betrayal by my body that was making my pure mind do something it didn’t really want to do.

But the fluttering coat sleeve that sustained itself flag-like in the gray wind reminded me that really I didn’t have much choice but to consummate with such women for who else but a prostitute would give themselves over to such a one as I, a young cripple against a scene of Capitalistic failure and egotism? The women who stood in the doorways were as young as myself but looked much older, emaciated from month long starvation streaks on only a diet of crack, water, and sex that tip the scales of human comprehension. Me, who was beginning to translate Horace and Homer; me, who was on the very cutting edge of Western Literature in my own writing who now in a frenzy was quite willing to give myself over to all the stupidity and illiteracy that these women had stored up in themselves for all their puny lives, giving myself over for hours, slicing into over a dozen gaping diseased holes, these bodies of nowhere who had completely slipped out of any human context whatsoever, save that of absolute misery. Dawn broke, and my back ached. Five hundred dollars left my pocket during the course of the night.

The same taxi took me back across the river from whence I came. I closed my eyes for the entirety of the ride. One armed and destroyed, strange images of feral industrial street children, all of them dancing joyfully, saying, to be human is to be thus, is to be hereright now all the time without help from any books. Large tribes of natives coming at me from right/left angles as I attempt to cross the thoroughfare to get to the whorehouse.

They are stripping me of my father’s coat, revealing my crippledness in the soft cold moonlight and the cab stops right in front of the dormitory. I gave the man no tip because he was red headed and had a beard to boot, he was desperate for a tip but he didn’t understand my disdain for redheaded men with beards, he was unjustifiably angry about not getting a tip, he says, I should call the cops for picking you up from Port Allen, from the Motel Seven. I paid him no mind.

Louis Bourgeois is the Executive Director of VOX PRESS, a 501 (c) 3 arts and education organization based in Oxford, Mississippi. Bourgeois also teaches for the Prison Writes Institute, a liberal arts education program set-up for Mississippi inmates.