the story behind the picture

warning: this is not the most articulate nor put together post I’ve written, but it is just too ridiculous not to publish. And I kinda like it the way it is, so. 

Most things aren’t what they seem. Especially on social media. I’ve written about this topic often and it’s something that I think needs to be brought up often. We live in an age where we text rather than call. We “like” a friend’s new life event rather than actually catching up and talking with them. We post relationship status updates like anyone really cares. We care too goddamn much about things that are not important. Like at all. Listen, I miss the days where our phones had real keyboards and social media was this new weird new thing that only weird people partook in. Or even when we had to press the 5 button three times to get the letter we needed to type out. Let’s go back even farther, I miss the days where we went to the store to develop the pictures we took on our disposable cameras because we were too young and couldn’t afford the new fancy digital cameras. THOSE were the best.

One time I lost my phone, ok not so much lost it. I left it at a bar the previous night before and couldn’t get it back until they opened later in the afternoon the next day. But let me tell you, I remember that day vividly, even without documenting it with pictures or staying in “the know” on my socials, or even knowing what time it was. I remember sitting at a table at a coffee shop and actually looking around. I didn’t feel that burning need to fumble around with my phone to keep busy, and sometimes I get jealous of that feeling. 

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is real life is not our “social” life, and that social media is truly a whole lot of BS. I recently moved to a new city and I’ve been using social media more than I usually do, posting about places that I visit, mostly coffee shops that I go to write at. But the picture only shows so much, which really isn’t much. It’s really not that important to me, nor really to anyone else. But it is kinda fun documenting the places I go to, so, whatever. (You see the vicious cycle?) 

I want to tell you about the day I had today at a coffee shop I went to because honestly, it was just too ridiculous.

So, I get to this coffee shop that has awesome outdoor seating. It’s really nice out so I wanted to go somewhere where I could be outside. I’m really excited to find a picnic table off in the corner under some shade. The place isn’t really busy at all, but the sun is pretty hot so it’s nice to find some cover. My table is also under a large tree and next to some cool ivy and leaves along the fence. Anyways, I’m sitting here writing, sipping on an iced coffee. I soon realize that my ankles have become very itchy, so I pull my legs up and sit cross-legged. Then, I realize my back is getting itchy, I’m wearing a cropped top.  I am getting eaten alive by mosquitos. Why the hell are there mosquitos right now, I think. Stubborn and wanting to stay outside, I throw a light sweater that I brought on. I don’t want to leave this place, or move tables. This is literally the best table out of the sun. I continue to write, very aware of my itchy feet and ankles. After a while, I feel hungry and decide to order myself some food. When my food is brought out to my table I’m VERY happily surprised by the enormous size of my sandwich. If you know me, you understand.

This is when the story gets even better. I go to take a bite of my sandwich and I am quite literally swarmed by flies. At first, it’s just a few, maybe 3 or 4. But they are persistent bastards. Annoyed, I lay my napkin over the rest of my ginormous sandwich as I continue to casually take bites while writing. Soon more fly buddies surround me. I am swatting them away, trying to take bites of my sandwich realizing I’m getting crumbs all over my laptop keys from the swatting. There has got to be like 10 flies flying around me. I decide it’s best to close up my laptop and just finish my sandwich before I start to write again. Originally, I wanted to take my time eating and write at the same time. But these fucking flies, oh my God. I decide to lay a single salt and vinegar chip at the other end of the table hoping to allude some of them over there. Realizing this may not be enough incentive, I place my pickle spear next to the chip. They MUST want this, I think. It’s probably the most fragrant thing on my plate, anyway, I’m not a pickle person. I wait for a minute, taking bites of the quarter of my sandwich watching to see if the chip and pickle scam work. It does not. Maybe one or two flies are attracted to it, but it’s like the flies are talking to each other and inviting more of their friends over to me. I have flies landing on my fingers as I go in to take a bite. I’m looking around to see if any of the other tables are having the same issue. They are not. Granted, there are only a few other occupied tables and not all of them have food. I’m thankful that I’m tucked away in the corner so people don’t notice me flailing my arms and swearing at these goddamn flies.

Like I said, my sandwich is huge. It is cut up in 4 large sections and each section has 3 pieces of toast in it. AND, it’s pretty darn toasted. I try to eat it quickly, but the top of my mouth quickly gets completely cut up. I start to feel a bit helpless. I decide to Google how to ward off flies, and I found several suggestions. Most do not pertain to what I have available to me. However, I do find that flies don’t like certain essential oils such as eucalyptus and lavender. I usually carry peppermint oil in my purse, which I know is not eucalyptus, but I figure it’s close enough. Can’t find it. Damn. Ok, hmm, I do have some Purell. Thinking, ok, maybe they won’t like the alcohol scent, I give it a shot. I rub some into my hands, but no, I need to take measures further. I drop small gobs of it onto the thin napkin that is covering my sandwich. Then I squirt more into my hands and try to flick it around the table. Gah, I probably looked nuts.

I’m sitting there just hoping it works. The hand flicking did momentarily ward some flies away. Ok, awesome, I’m so clever, I think.

Well, that was a very short lived thought. The flies are back almost immediately. I sit there, STILL with the first quarter of my sandwich in hand, on the verge of a frustration outburst. I dig back into my purse to see what else I have. I find my EOS peppermint lip balm, you know the sphere-shaped kind. I twist it open and lay it next to my sandwich. Nope. A fly lands right next to it. I put it back. Then almost too excitedly, I find an empty container that held these tea tree chewing sticks (toothpicks.) I think, YES, I found my answer. Tea tree has a strong scent. This seems to work, kinda. The flies don’t like landing on it, but they still manage to fly over it and onto my Purell saturated napkin which is still covering my sandwich. I also find some lotion I took from a hotel that seems to have a lavender scent. I rub that on my hands, on my napkin, and a little on the outside of my plate before I leave it open with a little squeezed out next to my sandwich.

I have done my best. I’m sitting here surrounded by random items from my purse, hands reeking of Purell and lavender with a tore up mouth and itchy feet.

Holy hell. I give up and let it just be. I try to eat my sandwich quickly, and just let the flies swarm me. I watch as they mock me while landing in the puddles of Purell happily.

Eventually, I take my last bite. I pick up the chip and pickle at the end of the table and put them back on my plate. I’m pretty sure I let out a loud “alright, that’s done,” get up and put my dish away into the dish tub outside.

I wipe all the crumbs away from me, and just like that the flies disappear. I sit there and write for probably another hour, unbothered by any more flies. By hour 2 though, my ankles have become increasingly itchier. Even though I am in a good rhythm with my writing, I decide it is just time to leave.

And that’s that. If you only saw the nice happy picture I took and posted on my Instagram, you would never have known everything that went behind it.

And that is social media, folks.

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Transparency, baby. Texas is HOT

I’m sitting on the front patio of a coffee shop because every spot inside is taken. Upon sitting down, I can already feel the perspiration above my upper lip start to accumulate. I’ve already had enough coffee this morning, and the small sips I take of the cold brew I just ordered are making my foot shake more than usual.

Never would I thought that I would be living in Texas. Never. In fact, if you asked me in high school, Texas would probably be the last place I ever would have seen myself. Texas is historically the reddest state, and I never thought I’d want to take on the constant heat. But, here I am, sweating my ass off in my jeans at this coffee shop. And you know what? I’m perfectly content. To my fellow wanderers, you know the life of adjusting to new scenery. With it comes excitement for new beginnings along with the slight terror of it all.

I gotta say, I was pretty damn nervous to make this move. Typically in my past experience, the first month of adjusting to a new state, a new home, is rough as hell. I won’t get into the details of it all because it touches a little too personal on my being and honestly my pride, but getting through the first month is a feat.

Pushing through my own comforts and boundaries has been what makes my wandering spirit happy. It also has shown me that I need to set aside more time to be with myself and to recharge. Just because you ask for change doesn’t mean you need to excel in it every second of every day. It’s a balance, and over the years I have become very in tune with myself and can feel quickly when I start to lose my grasp on my emotions. Resetting, for me, is a necessity or else my anxiety skyrockets and takes over.

I have one of those calendar things where it tells you new wisdom-full things every day. There’s a page that I always think about. Without completely butchering the quote from some great monk that said it, I’ll paraphrase: living in the past causes depression, living in the future causes anxiety. It’s in the moment, the present, that you want to be. There you will find the joy and happiness you’re looking for.

So, as difficult as it may be sometimes, I’m finding myself in the moment. I’m understanding what works for me and (trying) to push away what anyone else’s perceived thoughts are about me. Like, right now I could worry about my sweat running down my arm and leaving deodorant streaks on my black shirt, but you know what, it’s cooling me off so I kind of like it.

A whole new definition of “bug-eyed”

I was on the last leg of my walk with Boomer, my roommate’s dog, when a bug flew straight into my eyeball. So much in there that it might, in fact, still be in there. I felt it get sucked in from the wind tunnel the brim of my hat created and flew directly into the inner corner of my eye. I could feel it. It was cold which immediately shot goosebumps down my body. With my eye watering profusely, I bent over like I got shot. Bicycles are flying past me as I grip Boomer’s leash so he doesn’t clothesline anyone. I dig my finger into my eye but am unable to see through my phone camera to see if it is still in there, doing whatever a bug that just flew into eye juices does—biting at my cornea, laying eggs so near my brain, or defecating from pure fright. It was overwhelming going through the possibilities this bug was doing to me, assuming it didn’t get obliterated from the force of impact.

It’s then that I had a come to Jesus moment, minus the Jesus. A pure coincidence of fate can happen and alter everything. Unlike a car crash or elephant crossing, this tiny subtle realization hit me almost as hard as the bug did.  At any moment a bug can tunnel vision itself into my eyehole, burry itself behind my eye, and lay eggs for me to birth within weeks. My life may have changed its complete course due to this bug. I could be that thumbnail of a video on your Snapchat home screen, “girl’s eye engulfed by larva.” Ugh. It makes me shutter writing this with only 70% confidence that the bug is no longer in my eye.

So, you know what I’m going to do now? I’m going to live life like the bug is still in there, defecating, and counting down my days until the birth of its thousands of babies. I’m going to do exactly and only what I want. I’m going to buy myself ice cream even though I was just at the ice cream shop yesterday. I’m going to let my worries go because it could only be a short time until my time as a regular two-eyed girl comes to a close.

What Matters: The long ride after the longest ride.

This is a new segment of my blog. It’s called What Matters.

Millennials are supposedly the loneliest generation. We have the luxury of connecting with each other in more ways than what has been possible in the past. With the emerging of the internet and social media, we can connect with humans across the world from us, instantaneously. So, why are we so lonely?

We live in a society where no one talks about their real life. Maybe it’s from the stigma and shame of vulnerability. We think no one wants to know how we are really feeling, so we respond with “I’m good, how are you?” 

We choose to show how we want to be seen by posting our active moments, our adventurous selves, and our beautiful faces on social media. We cover our blemishes, our scars, with filters. Even those not participating in the social media world put filters on themselves and what they share with others. Nobody gets that close to anyone. What we give are the good looking framed pieces of our lives. 

So, this segment is meant to shed light on the real moments of life. On the moments that we don’t talk about, the moments that we don’t think anybody cares about. Really, the moments that we are scared to share. Because life is not all good. We forget that we all lose our cool sometimes. This is not meant to be a pity party, or me venting, but to show pivotal moments in my life that are real, are ugly, and even embarrassing. Because I am not just the filtered cropped pictures on my socials, and neither are you. If we share ourselves with each other more, really become transparent with one another, we may realize that we are more relatable with each other than we thought. From there, maybe we can beat the loneliness that consumes our generation.

Every moment in our life matters. Our feelings matter. The small things matter.

So, I want to share my moments. Because they mean something to me. I might leave out the backstory. I might leave it vague. But, I aim to share some small parts of my story, my life, that would normally get shoved under the rug and never spoken about. 

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THE LONG RIDE AFTER THE LONGEST RIDE

Sitting there, after ripping my own heart out just hours ago, I hold a carnation given to me by a stranger. I feel every bump of the shuttle ride. I shift around my backpack on my lap and stare at a spot on the floor.  I feel eyes on me by the people sitting across from me. I know they can tell I’ve been crying. I let it stain my face. I don’t care. I sit there with a broken heart and a shattered frame of mind, flower in hand. When I get home I put the flower in a glass of water. The next morning it starts to show signs of wilting. The next day even more so. I let it sit on my kitchen table until it bends low below the rim of the glass, dead in a puddle of water.

The Denver Café Chronicles—Prodigy Coffee

Mission: Every week I visit a new café/coffee shop in Denver, and write an article that has 2 segments. The first part, “the fact,”  is my experience at the café, a review if you will, how I’m feeling, what I see, etc… The second part, “the fiction,” consists of a fictional story that I come up with while at the café. I grab onto my surroundings, the vibes, and my feelings to inspire the short story.
fact
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It is a hot, hot day. I’ve been outside for the majority of it, and all I want is an ice cold caffeinated beverage. I’ve got some time to kill in between my work day so I decide to find a coffee shop along my route. I find a few nearby but there’s a name that stands out to me which is five minutes out of my way. Googling the photos of this coffeehouse, I’m attracted to the bright murals painted on the outside of the building. Pulling up to Prodigy Coffeehouse, I notice the shop is its own building with large garage-style doors. There are people spread out working on their computers and meeting with people. The vibes are fresh and cool as I walk into the shop, music is softly bumping. I’m greeted by two pleasant baristas. I ask about a drink on the menu and the barista politely explains it’s just a frozen drink, similar to “their friends across the street”. I look over his shoulder out the large barn door windows to see what he’s talking about realizing immediately that it’s Starbucks. I order myself an iced homemade chai and ask him to throw some espresso in it. He doesn’t ask me how much, but smiles and nods his head as he types it into the computer. I also order a cheesecake brownie, because well, brownie.

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There is a lot of open seating available, inside and out. I like the vibes inside, so I choose a booth next to a closed glass garage door. I like booths because I can easily sit cross-legged in them. There’s a cute large pup sleeping on the floor next to my spot. I pretty much devour my brownie in a matter of seconds, to the point where the last few bites are tasteless due to the sugar overload on my tongue. I sit enjoying my brownie, taking sips of my iced chai and look around the room. The coffee bar is made up of these cool looking green ceiling tiles, the kind you might find on the ceiling of an old pub. I notice I’m surrounded by my favorite color, lime green. There are quotes on the wall and my favorite one says “it is certainly true that you can’t judge a book by its cover, nor can you judge a book by its first chapter—even if that chapter is twenty years long.” For some reason, that one resonates with me.

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I’m noticing that I am becoming extremely sweaty sitting in this booth. Half of my body is in direct sunlight, and it’s enough to make me move to a table out of the sun. It’s no booth, but I still manage to find myself sitting cross-legged in the chair. A nice breeze blows on me from the open garage doors. This coffeehouse is possibly one of my favorite cafés I’ve been to yet. The openness of the building with the glass garage doors, the concrete floors and countertops, the booth and table seating, the hip music playing above, and the trendy yet simple menu all create this very familiar yet unique vibe. This place just feels cool. But not the too cool kind of place. The kind of place that I could see myself sitting in during the middle of the day in shorts, often. I’m so content sitting here, but I get a tad sidetracked when I stumble across videos of adults seeing colors for the first time. I’m literally crying in the middle of this coffeehouse and I love it.

 

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fiction

Jim and Carrie sit at the end of the old wooden dock and let their feet dangle above the water. The pot roast Jim started a few hours ago has about 30 more minutes until it’s ready. Every Sunday, they make a nice dinner, spend time outside together, and make sure that their phones are away left charging in their room. Sunday is their day.

“I promise, I will pick up the poop!” Carrie yells at him with a giant smirk on her face.

“No way in hell. We do not have the time for a puppy right now!” Jim never had pets as a child and doesn’t relate with Carrie on her want to get a dog.

“But we have this huge yard. Just imagine little Jimmy jumping off this dock playing catch!”

“Okay, so first off, if we get a dog, it will definitely not be named after ME. Second off, I love you.” He pauses as he smiles and looks into her hopeful eyes. “Third off, maybe in a couple years.”

“YEARS! Nooooo,” she wails. “I simply cannot accept that answer.” She is folding her arms now like a child would in any tantrum. Her lips are pursed and her chin is raised to the sky. “I’m gonna convince you, just you wait.” She quickly swings her feet onto the dock, jumps up, then bends down to kiss the back of his neck. “You’ll see,” she whispers into his ear. He jumps up, and she pulls away from him and sprints down the dock to the grass. He chases after her and grabs her by the waist. He pulls her toward him and raises her off the ground, spinning her around twice.

“You and your puppy dreams are going to be the downfall of my very successful garden.” He plants a full kiss on her lips and sets her back on the ground. 

“Ha!” She spits back at him. “You mean THAT very successful garden?” She points to four wilting tomato plants across the yard.

“It has been a bad rain season!” He exclaims back at her.

“Oh my god, YOU are the one that can’t handle a puppy. I’ll come home to it dead after a business trip and you’ll say something dumb like ‘it never made itself dinner!” 

“Exactly!”

Carrie rolls her eyes. Smiling, she pulls herself away from Jim, takes his hand and leads him back to the house. The kitchen smells so good of pot roast. The evening has gotten chilly and the house still has some warmth left in it from the warm day.

“Hey babe, can you put the garlic bread in? I’ll make the salad.”

“Oh, you mean your famous lettuce and cheese?” Carrie shot back to him as she places the bread in the oven.

“Hey now, simplicity is the best.”

“Simplicity is boring. And tasteless.” Carrie moves behind Jim and grabs a couple fresh tomatoes she bought from a farmers market earlier that morning. “See, THIS is what you could have. Someday. Definitely, after we get our puppy.”

“Oh! I promise you. We will have fresh homegrown tomatoes long before we have a puppy.” He replies back, shredding a block of cheese.

“I won’t hold my breath.” She takes out a cutting board from the cabinets under Jim, and slices up the tomato. “Oh, I forgot!” She excitedly jumps and prances over to the fridge. “I picked up this awesome balsamic vinaigrette at the market this morning. The old man selling it was so cute. I had like a 10-minute conversation with him.” She handed it to Jim and he looked it over.

“Cool bottle,” he says. He opens it up and puts a couple drops onto his finger. “Mmmm.” He then proceeds to slowly pour it over the lettuce. “I think we have some pine nets left over from the other night.” Carrie went over to the pantry and grabbed the small bag of nuts.

“See!” Jim shouted. Way more than just lettuce and cheese.”

“Barely, babe.” She smacks his butt and takes out 2 wine glasses from the open cupboard. “Got this too.” She waves a wine bottle above her head.

“Nice.” He smirks at her while he mixes the salad.

She places the glasses down with a slight clank. Jim turns into Carrie, grabs her face with both hands and gives her a hard kiss on her forehead. Carrie crinkles her nose as he pulls away.

“Your hands are so wet,” she says as she dramatically wipes her face with the sleeve of her shirt and gives him a big side smile as she turns to open the wine bottle.

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We get hit with blows. Right to the face.

When I’m going through what feels like a shit storm, I let myself feel it all. I become super-aware of my emotion. I let it sink into me, and I sit with it.

And then, I get up. I turn the water on and wash my hands.

I sit on the couch like it’s Tuesday.

I laugh when it’s funny.

I focus when I need to.

I create.

Because at a moment, a brief random stupid moment, that damn storm blows right back into my face.

And it’s hard.

For a couple seconds.

For a few minutes.

Hell, for an entire hour.

I sit in that storm and let the water run down my hair and into my eyes.

I find peace when I hold my breath, and then slowly let it out. It’s then that I remember it was something great. So, I smile.

Denver Café Chronicles—Joe Maxx Coffee Company

Mission: Every week I will visit a new café/coffee shop in Denver. The daunting part of this plan is that I intend to write, blog, at each one. My idea is to have 2 segments. The first part, “the fact,” of the blog will be my experience at the café, a review if you will, how I’m feeling, what I see, etc… The second part, “the fiction,” will consist of a fictional story that I come up with while at the café. I’ll be grabbing onto my surroundings, the vibes, and my feelings to inspire a short story.
the fact

The Santa Fe art district is looking fresh. Despite the dirty snow piled up on the side street parking spots, this Sunday morning is pretty, cold, and bright. Walking into the Joe Maxx Coffee Company I push onto the right side of the door, no budge. A quick sweat of panic sweeps over me as I think to myself, “dammit Emily, you didn’t check to make sure they are open today.” I pause for a moment then push onto the left side of the door and it sways open. I’m definitely one of those people who acknowledge my awkward moments, but alas, no one was around to hear my ramblings. It’s pretty empty in this coffee shop this morning, with the exception of a table of middle-aged women loudly talking amongst each other.

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Before I grab a drink, I head to the back of the shop to have a look around. It’s small, and the windows are shaded from the bright morning. The walls and floors are dark brown, and there are old rugs under each table. I choose a spot in the back corner on a couch that you would find at your friend’s grandparent’s house. I take off my coat and oversized blanket of a scarf and place them onto the couch. I go up to the front and take a moment to look over the menu. There are specialty coffee items on the menu like a White and Dirty, Spiked Lemonade, and an Affogato which is a scoop of vanilla ice cream drowned with a fresh hot shot of espresso. So tempted to order this ice cream based drink, I decide it’s too early for dessert, so I order the Kolache Latte which is a hazelnut latte topped with honey, whipped cream, and pecans—perfectly on the brink of desert. I ask the barista if I said it right, to which another barista standing near him corrects my pronunciation. I also order a slice of pumpkin bread. When he hands it to me he says “this is a massive piece of pumpkin bread.”

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“Oh, awesome.” I excitedly reply. And it was in fact, a massive piece of moist pumpkin deliciousness piled onto a small glass white plate. While the milk for my Kolache Latte is being warmed and foamed, I look around at some of the funky art hanging on the brick walls. Music is being played, I’m assuming, from the plugged-in iPod laying on an old turntable. The barista calls out my coffee drink, and I go back up to retrieve my gooey looking over whipped cream drink in a to-go cup. Hurriedly, I head back to my spot and place my drink and pumpkin bread on the coffee table in front of the couch. I marvel for a moment at the toppings on my hazelnut latte. I’m also definitely the kind of person that has to eat all of the whipped cream off my drinks before I do anything else. I think it’s ridiculous letting it pathetically melt into your hot beverage without enjoying the creaminess of its intended state. 

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So, here I am, slurping up the honey-topped whipped cream, which is making my lips gooey and messy, and I couldn’t be happier. I lick my lips of the thick honey, and resume scooping the rest of the whipped cream off the top with the fork I’m using for my pumpkin bread. When I finally finish off all the good stuff my drink is down to half full. I dive into my bread and eat about half of it while I look around the shop noticing how every corner is being utilized for something—decoration or purpose. The corner directly in front of me to the left has a small old wooden TV table with one of those old black and white TVs that have two knobs for changing channels and an antenna. “Cool,” I think as I shove a giant piece of bread into my mouth. I don’t even mind that the bathrooms are across from me. The “all gender restrooms” are hip with art, white bath tiles, and uneven brick walls. I even stand up and walk over into one of them to check it out. “Cool,” I say out loud this time. The one thing I always remember when I check out a new restaurant or business—the bathrooms, if they’re worthy. I’m all about cool bathrooms.

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While I’m up I continue to walk around the small space of the back of the coffee shop. There’s an old piano with a bench covered in itchy looking fabric. Where sheets of music are meant to be, there are business cards placed along the ledge. I almost pick up one of a woman who connects to spirits, but then decide there are no spirits I need to reach out to, so I leave it for someone who really needs her services. I do, however, pick up a business card of a woman who claims to be able to “facilitate my self-healing” and also a card from the Colorado Ballet where their slogan on the bottom of the card is “Drink Beer, Dance, Conquer.” Smiling as I take my new finds back to my area, I sink down into the couch and pull out my laptop.

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the fiction

Billy laid his forearms on the sticky wood glazed bar of the dark dance hall. A Johnny Cash album played quietly from the turntable in the corner. Despite the warm bright morning, the hall was dark and cold. Before his first dance class, Billy liked to get to work early and have a bourbon at the bar. He’d been leading dance classes for 20 years, and just two years ago he bought this place from an old man whose wife had just passed. The old man was happy to hear Billy’s plans for the place. “Babe loved to dance. She would be happy to see this dump of a bar used for dancing.” Billy remembers the old man saying this, looking off into the distance for a good 30 seconds, and then handed Billy the keys saying, “Good luck, son.”

It took Billy three months to convert the old bar into a dance hall. He put in new wood flooring and painted the brick walls a deep red color. He put in a wall of mirrors across from the bar.  He left the old bar there, he liked it. Even though he couldn’t sell booze, he kept a stash of nice bourbon under the counter and would often drink either by himself or with some of his regular patrons after the late classes.

This morning was no different from any other morning. Billy offered morning classes every weekday starting at 10 AM. The people who attended the morning classes were mostly of the older crowd, and his favorite. They would come in loud, always laughing about some conversation they all had while walking together to the hall. Someone would bring in pastries or biscuits, and Billy supplied them with coffee. They would all sit around the bar and have a cup of coffee before they would start. They never got to the actual dancing until 10:30. He would pour the first cup of coffee as they were stepping into the door promptly at 10, and set down a new full cup at each seat of the bar. Each of them greeting him with either a loud “Billy!,” or a nod and a “mornin, Bill.” There was a good mix of men and women, most of them single. All were friends, and all met at Billy’s Hall.

For the morning classes, Billy changed up the dance every week. These people came here for the social aspect of the hall rather than the actual dance, so they didn’t mind the inconsistency of the dances. They actually seemed to enjoy learning new dances, laughing together as they misstepped. Today Billy was teaching swing dance, one that he’d done many times with this morning group.

This morning’s topic of conversation was about the new neighborhood community garden being built a block over. They were all talking about the plots they had already bought, and what they planned on planting in them. As each of them talked about the vegetable or flower they were planning on growing, everyone chimed in with what they would do with the plant—going on tangents on each topic.

“Oh, my grandkids LOVE watermelon, I’m going to grow that too!”

“Ooo I’ll bring in some homemade tomatillo salsa every week. Who likes spicy?”

“My father used to make the best fried green tomatoes…”

Almost in an uproar of volume, the group would excitedly chime in with responses.

Billy sat at the end of the bar, sitting on his stool behind the bar sipping on his black coffee. Smiling, he listened to each person’s response and offered his own comical spats. The sound of coffee cups hitting the heavy wood bar, the rusted stools swiveling, and the clammer of the group gave Billy’s Hall a character that he never expected but, now, oh so appreciated. Billy enjoyed what this group made this place out to be.

He looked down at his watch. “Alright, people, 10:30,” Billy spoke loudly over everyone. In almost a single sweep everyone was out of their chairs, coffee cups left on the bar.