The beauty in being American was and still is the freedom to set your sights on a lifestyle you dream for yourself and go after it with all your spirit and cleverness and nerve. The hurt you feel when you fail is yours and yours, alone. Maybe it will lead to a dead end street and bar or romance. An ashtray full of butts. 24 hours of loneliness can be hell. And then your back in the game, if you’re young, the world is black and white.
i had gone to the back of the room and left them telling their stories one by one with seldom an interruption. the voices gave warmth to a cool autumn morning while the delta breeze slid soundlessly across the train tracks and the torn upholstery of abandoned cars to the branches of the trees tapping on the glass all around us to get in.
i poured myself a mug of hot coffee and stirred in a bit of sugar, standing there with my back to them, listening half-heartedly and somewhere between consciousness and last night’s dream.
after a few hearty slugs of the black stuff my eyes woke up first and stared into a congregation of uneven framed black and white portraits from times before now. century old tired and long faces looked back at me and over my shoulder as if they were part of our gathering in this old meeting
hall, a former nondescript bar once with billiards for the truck drivers and laborers in the yards.
i felt a chill carry over the nape of my neck as i realized i had become some medium some conduit between my audience hung by nails alongside coffee mugs on the wall, and the living boisterous
true fellowship behind us. i stood perfectly still then
turned to see the speaker at the head of the table, an older gentleman with a way about him and expressions i would not forget to remember him by. as i turned slowly back my eyes getting larger to see, alighted on an old rusted peg, the visage of the living man! he was silent yearning to be free, framed right there before me… and in small white numerals in the corner of the photograph… i read in disbelief the year! it was 1923.