Coffee and Worms. The actual name of the place is Coffee and Worms.
I’m in front of this little gas station-drugstore-cafe (note: to be determined), and I’m in the American South. I’ve been to the South before. Well, I’ve been to Texas before. This is North Carolina.
The name of the town is Southport. Her perpetual boredom is balanced with this calmness, this content of breathing the air off the Cape Fear River early in the morning and late at night. There is a man sitting in a white rocking chair listening to Dixieland music on vinyl. The music caught the air as it flowed from the open windows making its way down the quiet, empty streets. I watch the sunset over the sailboats and fishing boats and shrimp boats, then walk along under the giant southern oak trees to the
main pier that protrudes just far enough out onto the river. I love these piers. They scream “Southern coastal livin'” with their pictures plastered on every tourist destination article. There they really stand, waiting to be photographed, but truly desiring to be fished off of. This would be home for a little bit.
A German friend from college unexpectedly came and went. I was happy to see him again. When we talk, our eyes barely look away. I vividly remember when I first caught his eye at a jazz show in Illinois. A slow month proceeded with piercing, passing glances almost daily at the music building on campus. He looked at me, and I looked at him. I felt like we knew one another before ever speaking. Then one day we spoke.
I was with him the night before I got hit by a car. My bike light had been stolen. Many months later, he sent me a new light to my place in North Carolina with a note scribbled out on sheet music.
Anton told me: “It’s places like these that help the imagination grow.”
Places like these? Like Southport?
I’m thinking all this over as the sun disappears completely and the pier lights flick on. I figure my only option is to head to the pub.There is one pub in Southport. A little Irish place that manages to fit all the characters in this town into one poorly lit room, but it does have beer. There are worse ways to spend a night on the Cape.
I arrive in time to see all the characters already mingling outside with cigarettes. “Well, hey.” A recognizable face waves in my direction. “Come and sit with us!” recognizable face says. “Gotta get a beer first,” I say as a walk past and reach the front door. It isn’t really a face I care to see at this moment. I push through the door and the same, never changing, poor lit room appears in front of me. There’s also a girl.
She is walking along the bar toward me and I’ve never seen her before. Odd, in this small of a town. Her light hair falls from a blue baseball cap. She eyes me as we pass with half a smile and raised eyebrows. I nod at her and she immediately drops her eyes. I watch as she pushes through the door back toward the mingling and the cigarettes. I’m still looking her way as the door closes.
“Who are these fresh faces?” I ask Jenna as she pours me a beer. She laughs. “Power plant workers. They come around for whatever projects.” I had heard of this. All these people flooding Southport from random places in the Midwest. I guess energy is a big employment field. My eyes lingering back toward the front door, and settle for a minute. “Well, I guess I’ll take this one outside,” I say to Jenna.
I kind of like the warm and salty North Carolina air anyway.