Stepping out of the parking garage,
the blinding summer sun poured
into the shadows and must
as I opened the door,
the familiar flashes of food and fun hit me:
laughing, honking, warm pizza and popcorn –
I hurried down the alleyway,
a drab gray road with plain brick walls,
a complete contrast to the street it led to.
Main Street was spinning with people
crowding the sidewalks
like the wheels of the shiny antique cars
they were looking at.
Gray haired men with their veteran caps
sat in their lawn chairs and laughed
as the meat sizzled on the grills
they brought from home today,
just like every Friday.
Children ran around their parents
and shop windows and the colorful cars,
telling the adults that would listen that
that one, right there, the blue one –
that’s the one he wants when he gets big.
I ducked and weaved through the crowd
past Angelo’s and the goozy slices
of bread and cheese warming outside
and couldn’t help but get two –
one for me, one for a friend –
and continued up the vibrant street
to the sound of the revving engines
and tooting horns,
taking in the happy faces of families
spending that quality time together
that they’d miss in a few years.
I adjusted my backpack with my shoulders,
hauling it into a more comfortable,
stationary position as I ran
to my favorite store on the street
to be at this time on a Friday afternoon.
The bell on the door tinkled an old-fashioned chime when it opened,
and the young tattooed guy behind the counter looked up at me,
smiled, greeted me by name.
He took my “hello”
and five dollars kindly as always,
gesturing to my friends sitting at the tables surrounded by shelves
filled with games –
cards, board, new, old, popular, not so common –
games you have to play with your friends in person
and not your television screen in isolation.
Old rock played softly on the speakers
as I slid into the seat next to Benny,
the sophomore in high school
that mistook me for younger than him,
and passed him my extra slice.
“College girl” –
the high school boys nicknamed me;
the men just call me by my name.
Once they thought they might scare me off –
the only girl in a group of geeky gaming guys.
but that night – my first game of Magic,
as we set our colored cards on the table,
I knew I had found another family
and a place where I could be myself.