Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee
Tonight was the last night of the Third Wednesday Open Mic. It had bounced around to different venues and traded hands with hosts long before I started going a year ago. I saw one host and two venues. We’d been reading for a few months at Fig then Fig closed. It was a sign that none of us wanted to see but we all recognized: like a divorce, you can’t force it.
No-one read tonight. Instead, we sat around a table telling stories. I was between a poet from near Fayeteville and a teacher from all over, most recently Chapel Hill. We talked about the way the South has changed. There’s a lot of new construction in the triangle. They’re tearing down malls and selling off property. Every street in Chapel Hill is becoming a canyon with the sky-rises. Meanwhile, down in Dunn, retired guys still go to the Bojangles on their tractors.
We were back at Lucky Tree. I was a drinking a hard cider. They didn’t use to serve these. The ethanol got mixing with my blood and brought me back to February, 2018. It was a Wednesday. I’d been laid off from my job in a bookstore. I was petrified and flailing. I wanted money, I wanted time. I’d been spending twenty-four hours in the house eating instant ramen and scouring classifieds. I needed something to give me back some meaning.
That first night, I brought my roommate E with me to the Open Mic. I was too scared to go alone. We walked around and got dinner before it started, then grabbed some seats at the long table outside the cafe. S was up at the podium setting everything up. I walked up and asked her where to put my name to do a reading and she showed me. She said ‘Is this your first time with us?” and I told her it was. Eight months later, I’d spend an evening in her backyard carving pumpkins and watching horror movies before Halloween.
What I’m trying to say is that the nerves wore off. Before long, Third Wednesday was a part of me. The women and men who read each evening were my kin. Whether they were regulars or one time readers, we were a part of something together.
Everything ends. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t have a reason to make it matter. I’m a better writer and more full of friendship thanks to my 18 months at Third Wednesday. In the bitter winter cold I was looking for meaning, and, sure enough, I found it.
Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller
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What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage