I got a call around one this afternoon from a old childhood buddy of mine, telling me to get my ass down to Portside because it was time for me to have a beer. Deciding that the swelling in my cheeks had gone down enough to look presentable, I agreed.
Twenty minutes later, I was sitting at Portside's bar - a seafood restaurant where my little sister works as a bus girl - with seven different guys I had known since diapers. Mike, the guy who called me, hugged me and after squaring his Bass Pro Shop hat, told me to tell him how the hell I was and how I had managed to be at home all this time and not give him a heads up.
Few hours later, I had laughed and slapped the bar top numerous times through tales of who had been picked up after a hunting mishap, who was getting married, who had found work, who was going into the military, who had started a bar fight at the VFW and who had been so drunk that they had to be hosed down in a lawn chair before their mother would let them in the house. I was asked how work was, how I could get all of them on "Dirty Jobs" and how was living in the city.
"I couldn't do it," Mike told me. "There's too much stuff there."
"Yeah, not enough space for you," I said.
It was mid-afternoon on a Sunday and aside from an elderly couple or two trying to enjoy their crab cakes, we had the place to ourselves. By beer five, "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash had been played and sung three times and "Sweet Home Alabama" once. Another friend of mine's dad dropped in on his way into town - said he saw all the trucks in the parking lot and figured these guys would be here. He bought us a round of Bud Light, and not wanting to be rude, I accepted. It was the only drink I had.
When Carl, Duke and Eric had come back in from a smoke, they had Mike's mom with them. "Mama K" Kathy had come to pick him up to take him to a family event. After scolding Mike for wearing a worn out t-shirt and jeans to a family thing, Carl took of his button-up and handed it to him.
"Here," he said, standing in the bar bare-chested. "I'll get it from you whenever."
"Lauren, when are you coming back? I need you here to keep my boy straight." Ms. Kathy said to me, pushing Mike out the door and wishing me a Happy New Year.
As much as my hometown has bored me in the past, there are times when I miss it with all my heart.
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