I am up late. Remembering Thanksgiving. And how we were watching “Beautiful Girls” in the hours before we drove up to my friend’s parents’ place for dinner. The realization that we were the same age as the characters in it. And how it didn’t really strike me then.
But how it is striking me now.
And so it’s Sunday night in Vacaville. Two days before Christmas. I am out with an old friend. We are looking for a bar that we’ve never been to. Someplace that is quiet. Away from the younger crowds that have taken over downtown. Though, we are still fairly young ourselves.
Because there was a time when downtown belonged to an older crowd. And the people knew each others names and faces. They knew each others stories.
Or so I imagined.
But those days are over now. The places have changed. And the new younger faces are making their own stories.
And I don’t mean to over-romanticize. Because back then, having dark skin, I wouldn’t have been crazy about going into some of those places alone. Even with friends, there were some places that I was never comfortable. And still today, a friend’s father questions half-jokingly, “You went there alone?”
But for us being back in Vacaville, these are the nights when we are back at home. The few nights. So we want to forget the faults of a town that is changing. And not always for the better. We want to forget the young faces. Because these are selfish nights for us to remember what it was like when we were young here. And we want to find an affinity for the old.
So we end up at a bar in an old strip mall. One of the many strip malls that have come to make up our town. But this one is older than either of us can remember. So somehow it seems more legitimate. And the bar probably has a name, but for us it is not particularly important. Only that it is hidden away. And that it is a place that holds old locals.
And right away the bar is different. Because there are more people inside than is conveyed by the number of cars out in front. And it’s nondescript too. Or rather, outside of this upside down Christmas tree standing awkwardly near the door. But still it seems to be the place we are looking for.
Perhaps because the bartender is friendly. She grew up in New York and lived in San Diego before Vacaville. And the friend I am with lives in New York. And I live in San Diego. And so she tells us her stories.
Or perhaps because the man sitting next to us is drawing comics on the backs of lottery papers. And the comics are good. The kind of stuff that you find in newspapers or magazines. Funny and clever. But I find myself thinking about how they’ll end up in the trash. Never seeing the light of day. Because for him it is enough to make the few people around him laugh. Because it’s this talent reserved for acquaintances, friends and family. Some nights I wonder if that it enough. But in the end, I am not really sure.
But finally we are leaving. To return to our younger world. For a few more moments. While we can still lay claim. Because there is this sense that we’ll be coming back to this place more often now. And places like it. The next time that we are in town. And the next time after that.
Until finally we are relegated to this place. Happily. Because we’ll be telling our own stories. And drawing our own comics.