All it needed to be more cliche-perfect was to play Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman” instead of Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” over the speakers.
Fake palm-thatched party hut on the roof; big colored Christmas lights strung around the poles. The smell of old smoke and new smoke and spilled beer and hot pizza mixed with someone’s body oder. Haircuts I have only seen in movies from the ’80s. Faces creased and tired under too much makeup.
It wasn’t the kind of place where you linger over your drink with a book.
But Friday nights are $1 Yuengling draft nights and he was keeping the babies while I escaped for an hour and after the hot afternoon sun and the toddler’s clingyness in the afternoon the beer seemed worth the atmosphere.
I carried my glass and my Kindle to the one empty table beside the tiki hut and half read, half watched the people around me. The sun had given way to clouds that dropped sprinkles here and there and it was cool.
And strangely, since it couldn’t be more different, I felt like I was 21 again, sitting under the green awning of a Bar Tabac in Pernes as the summer heat gave way to a cool Provencal evening and condensation formed on the outside of my Heineken – the only beer I knew to order in French.
I remembered watching old men gather at the outdoor tables; how the normally empty courtyard was packed the night France lost to Italy in the World Cup; watching a family – not French – laughing at a table nearby, two little girls lost to giggles and parents laughing too because they were contagious – and writing that I hoped it would be my family laughing at nothing someday.
Eight years ago.
And now I have two children and a dog and a house we’ve sold, pending contracts in two weeks; and I only have an hour before the rain starts up in earnest and the baby at home will need me.
But for that hour, despite the music and the company and the smells, I’m that girl again. And coming home, I remember to laugh at nothing.