As part of NolaVie’s Yeah you write! campaign, we are inviting readers to submit New Orleans-related content for a chance to have their work featured on our site. Whether it’s a personal essay about moving from New Orleans, a photo of French Quarter Fest, or a video of a second line, we want to know: what’s your New Orleans story?
Today’s submission comes from an anonymous reader about the generic LOVE signs plastered all around the city, which eventually came to bear a deeply personal significance for him.
I first encountered the red and white “LOVE” signs erected all across New Orleans in a manner probably similar to most residents. I caught one in my peripheral and mistook it for a film crew directional. Then I saw a few more, perched about 10 feet up on telephone poles, and a pattern started to emerge. It was decidedly street art and they were everywhere. It was cute.
I didn’t give it much thought after that until one morning when I started to read through my wife’s emails and texts on the phone she had inadvertently left behind. And there it was. An email buried in the trash folder with a link to an article about the signs. She had sent it to a colleague of hers earlier that week, telling him in the mawkish yet heartfelt way of early lovers, that it had made her think of him.
I had decided to read it because of her increasingly erratic behavior. Coming home early mornings after nights out drinking. Wandering off for a walk with her phone while I gave the baby a bath and put her to bed. I asked her if I needed to worry about anything and she said ‘no,’ and we left it at that. But obviously I was worried anyhow, because I looked. Any guilt I felt over prying was quickly replaced by indignation and then dread, as I had discovered a record of my wife falling in love with another man. My hands shook and I cried. As I worked through their threads I saw advances and retreats. Sleepless nights and long workdays spent thinking about each other. The sharing of song lyrics. The dipping of toes into pools of physicality. Uncertainty, remorse, labored justification. Acceptance. Bliss.
The memories from the weeks that followed are pretty fuzzy, but at some point we decided to stick together and work it out. Somewhere in there we celebrated our third wedding anniversary. Some days are miserable, but some things have improved, as well. And as self-righteous as I often feel, there are lessons I’ve learned. Love can be a sign you hang on a pole but not something you can hang your hat on.
Now, driving around town — to and from work or my daughter’s daycare, running errands — I see about one of those signs every day. I’m sure some days I see more than that, but they seem spaced out perfectly, so that just when I’ve started to forget about them one pops up. And my reaction now is quite different. I looked them up online, half hoping there was some snarky, tongue-in-cheek artist statement explaining that they were ironic. What I found was by no means conclusive, but it was apparent that whoever put them up was sincere in his or her efforts to open a dialogue among us New Orleanians about the nature of love, maybe even as it relates to the city’s crime. And as much as I wanted to punch them in the face, I guess even with me they succeeded — even if, more often than not, it’s a monologue.
From my rational mind’s vantage, my reaction seems petty. Crime in this city is a real problem and talking about love certainly couldn’t hurt. And love is fun, when you’re on the right end of it. People post pictures of themselves kissing in front of the signs. I can only grimace. My eyes tear up and my heart races.
But that’s love, too. It’s messy and sad. Sometimes it’s emotional and sometimes based on reason. And some days, sadly (or maybe not), it just comes down to a decision.