I was going to write about something else, but I can’t do it. Not after last night. It wouldn’t be fair to the good people I saw.
This is a small town. Our band played music in a small abandoned storefront with dusty floors and plywood on the windows.
I asked about the plywood windows. Someone said that recently, two different vehicles smashed into this place. The surprising part was: both drivers were stone sober—if you don’t count beer.
Anyway, I believe it. No sooner had I arrived in town, than someone shoved a longneck in my hand.
I met country accents. I met kids. I met a fella with so many freckles, he put buckshot to shame. I met an elderly woman who said she’d skipped her nightly meds— since they would’ve made her drowsy. She said, “I don’t want to fall asleep and snore during your music. Or worse.”
I didn’t ask her what could be worse than snoring.
In the front rows: my friends, my wife’s friends, my family, cousins, surrogate aunts, somebody’s lap dog, and folks who were at my wedding.
I shook hands with opposing mayor candidates, and swore that—if I were a resident here—I’d vote my conscience. That is, unless someone bribed me. Then I might vote someone else’s conscience.
I hugged the necks of goodhearted women who can cook circles around deep-fried birds. And saintly teachers who deserve awards. I rubbed elbows with fellas who know how to skin a buck from rack to tail in four seconds.
One man invited me hunting. Another invited me to church. One man offered to take me on a drinking trip with fishing poles.
We played songs. Alongside me: three of my close friends. Fellas I’ve known for a long time.
Afterward, people of the audience loaded my truck. Someone handed me another beer and told me a story about his senile dog. I heard a few jokes from a man who had a knack for telling them. An elderly couple offered to let me sleep in their guest room. Someone even told me they loved me.
I was going to write about something else today. I can’t.
I’m not going to lie. I’ve gone through periods of living when it seemed as though the sun hadn’t shined in decades. I’m ashamed to tell you that loneliness was a central emotion in my early days. This doesn’t make me unique. A body can spend a whole life feeling lonely, looking for love, kindness, and genuine people who give a damn.
Some never find it.
Others are lucky enough to visit Brewton, Alabama.