Long before I moved to New Orleans from Memphis in August of 2015, I began a Twitter friendship with an ardent Braves fan named Katie, who lived in East Tennessee.
At the time, my beloved St. Louis Cardinals were fresh off a National League pennant, the 19th in franchise history, as they lost to the Boston Red Sox in six games in the World Series while her Braves lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games in the National League Divisional Series.
The year before that, the Braves and the Cardinals played in the first ever one-game Wild Card playoff game, with the Cardinals winning due to one of the most controversial calls in modern baseball history.
In the game, Anderlton Simmons hit a high fly ball to left, which both Pete Kozma and Matt Holliday had a chance to make a play on. And while it was quite clear that the ball was out of the infield, umpire Sam Holbrook decided to instill the infield fly rule, something that propelled the Cardinals to victory and jokes from me to Brave fans like Katie on social media.
“Deep down, you love my Braves thing and that I'm passionate about baseball,” she once told me after I made another joke about her team. “I mean, admit it.”
“Well that and you're cute,” I said. “That's why I pick on you about your Braves. Of course, you make fun of my beloved Cardinals in return, which means that we're even on baseball ribbing.”
Eventually, in the spring of 2015, I learned that I would be presenting at Xavier University at a conference called Rising Tide. Realizing that I had a golden opportunity to move here from Memphis, I landed a job with a grassroots organization, which killed any faint hope of meeting Katie.
While waiting to start my new job because of paperwork, Katie suggested that I should go around the city to take photos.
“Think of it as a photo game you could play,” she told me.
As time went on and the pictures I took of the city piled up on my Instagram feed, some of which she liked, Katie expressed interest in visiting the city, an idea that I deemed as laughable to my then-landlord on Carondelet Street.
“She's cute,” my landlord told me when I showed him a photo of her.
“And I'm not going to meet her,” I told him.
“Why do you say that?” my landlord asked me.
“The odds of that happening are like 800 to 1,” I told him. “I can't see it happening. And if she does come here, what makes you think we’re going to cross paths?”
Less than 18 months after this conversation with my then-landlord, I received a Twitter notification from Katie that had my Twitter handle in it.
“Heading to New Orleans in June,” the tweet read.
“You're coming here?” I asked. “This isn't fake news?”
“I want to save time to meet you and everyone you want me to meet,” she told me later that day.
Realizing that it was impossible to meet everyone I wanted her to meet, I enlisted the help of my friends in the city and decided to do small video postcards for her from different locations around the city, as well as the internet radio station I broadcast my weekly show from.
As the weeks dwindled towards her arrival in the Crescent City, I began to have complete anxiety about what could happen in June, prompting me to go to two different tarot readers.
“This girl is fond of you,” one of the tarot readers in Jackson Square told me before work one morning. “You're going to meet this girl and you're going to have a good time with her.”
The second tarot reader I met on Royal and Toulouse echoed that same sentiment.
“You think it's going to happen?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she said. “It's going to happen.”
The day before she was scheduled to arrive, I woke up to learn that some vagrant stole my bike overnight, forcing me to buy another bike from a thrift store on St. Claude. And to make matters worse, after doing several deliveries throughout the Treme and the Maringy, the replacement bike catches a flat as I attempted to make a delivery to the Bywater, forcing me to wait almost three hours for a bus from the Ninth Ward to Canal Street.
Due to the fact that I always believed in omens, I felt that all the bike troubles that had plagued me that day was a very bad omen.
“It's not happening now,” I thought as I walked from the Washington Avenue streetcar stop early that Friday morning. “She's not meeting me, and I'm a fool for believing this.”
That is, until late in the afternoon that same Friday.
Feeling depressed, I felt that a walk down to the Quarter from Uptown might take my mind off everything. Even though my friends had told me to relax and not think about it anymore, I couldn't stop thinking about blowing my chance at meeting her.
As I walked across Canal Street towards Royal Street, I saw my friend Miss Louise, who had a tarot booth set up on Royal between Bienville, directly across from Cafe Beignet.
“You know I'm not selling ice cream anymore,” I told her when I saw her at her booth. “I decided to do bike food delivery.”
“How's that going?” she asked.
“Aside from the flat tire I now have on my bike, pretty well.”
“Look, you can use my bike to make deliveries,” Miss Louise told me. “I'm leaving here at midnight.”
Dumbfounded by all of this, I went across the street to unlock her bike and went upriver towards my house to grab my delivery bag.
In the midst of this, I received a text message from Katie, which I couldn't respond to right away as I road on Baronne.
But when I arrived at my house, I had this to say in response to her text.
“I'm meeting you tonight. I have one life and one chance to do this,” I said. “It's happening tonight.”
After finishing my last delivery, I received another text message from Katie about her and her friends’ whereabouts in the Quarter.
On the way back to the Quarter from my house however, the chain on Miss Louise's bike popped off as I went downriver on Simon Bolivar towards Jackson, forcing me to pull over on South Liberty and 1st Street to pop the chain back into place.
As I continued towards the Central Business District on Simon Bolivar and then onto Loyola Avenue, I looked towards the heavens and prayed.
“I don't ask for much,” I said out loud as I stopped at the red light at Loyola & Julia. “But give me this moment. I don't know how many chances I will have to meet Katie. Just let me have this, God. Please.”
Realizing that it would be hell to bike through the side streets of the French Quarter because of Essence weekend, I decided to walk the bike up Conti from North Rampart to Royal.
As soon as I returned Miss Louise's bike to her, I sprinted down Royal towards St. Louis Street, figuring that Katie and her friends would be in that area near Vieux Carre Pizza.
However, that was not the case as I received another message stating that they were somewhere getting daiquiris on Bourbon & St. Louis, which was a few hundred yards away.
“Dang,” I said to myself.
After swinging and missing on both attempts, I then walked downriver on Bourbon towards Toulouse when I got a text message from Katie about Willie's Chicken Shack.
“That's where we are,” she said.
In the midst of this, one of the numerous street pastors that frequent Bourbon whenever there's a huge festival in town stopped me as I went towards Toulouse.
“Would you like to learn more about Jesus?” he asked me as I was wiping off sweat with my shirt.
“This is like the wrong time to ask me something like this,” I told him.
“But it's never too late to join the kingdom of God,” the street minister said.
“You've wasted 10 seconds of my time with this,” I told him. “That's ten seconds I can't get back.”
Breezing through the crowd on Bourbon like a man on a mission, fearful thoughts clouded my mind once again as I approached the Willie’s Chicken Shack in the 600 block of Bourbon.
“Ryne?” a voice shouted out. It was Katie.
Normally, in moments like these, I'm pretty stoic.
But when you have a once in a lifetime moment like this, a moment that defies description, you don't give a damn about being stoic or the fact that your LSU hat is a size too big.
The moment that you've never thought would happen is right in front of you.
“You know,” I told her after I hugged her. “I told myself I wouldn't cry. But I have a huge smile on my face right now.”
As soon as I said this, my hat flew off towards the sidewalk as we walked towards where her friends were, and we continued downriver towards St. Peter on Bourbon.
During the walk, I started bringing up a few things about the city, prompting one of her friends to ask if I was a native New Orleanian.
“Used to visit here a lot,” I said. “Mom was also born in Baton Rouge.”
We then stopped at the Marie Laveau Voodoo Shop near St. Ann and Bourbon, which prompted me to tell Katie and her friends a few things about Laveau.
“I'm not a tour guide by any means, so take whatever information I give you about Laveau with a grain of salt,” I told the ladies.
As with most people that visit Bourbon, especially for the first time, one of the ladies in the group decided to get a Lucky Dog. In a sense of irony, that young lady was Katie, which meant that she would be introduced to one of the greatest characters the street has ever known, a Lucky Dog vendor nicknamed “Big Tiny”.
“Handjob!” Tiny said to me as Katie and I walked towards the stand.
“When I told him you were coming here, I told him to watch out for you if someone down here on Bourbon tried to mess with you and your friends,” I told Katie. “Messing with Tiny is like messing with the St. Louis Cathedral. Dude’s a local treasure.”
After Katie got her hot dog and I had some of her daiquiri, we walked another block, and I started explaining to her and her friends ways to be safe in the city and answered their questions about places to eat.
Realizing that I had to walk back to my house on Washington Avenue, I had to cut my time short with Katie and her friends.
As we stood outside Cafe Lafitte in Exile on Bourbon and Dumaine and had to contend with a guy trying to sell us aspirin, I had an audience with Katie.
“Until Friday, I did not think this would happen,” I said to her. “In fact, once I leave you, I fear that you’re going to vanish into the New Orleans night like the other ghosts that inhabit this city.”
“You’re not dreaming,” she said with a huge smile. “It happened.”
As I write this, there's no telling whether or not Katie will return to New Orleans.
“Think of it this way,” a friend of mine told me. “Had you hung out with her all weekend, it would have cheapened the moment. However, you have that possible once in a lifetime moment. And even if she never returns to New Orleans, then you'll always have New Orleans.”
Somewhere, Humphrey Bogart is smiling.