At nineteen I was saved by a coffeehouse. An open mic. A tall guy in long suits and a set of conga drums down by the river that stank of carp and boiled brown water. I could have been anything.
Wednesday nights the place jammed with kids looking to be in a town where nobody wanted them around. Music. Smokes. Skateboard addled dreamers cursing on the sidewalk hyped on caffeine. Downtown.
Across the river the bowling ally lit neon. Dropouts in trench coats and big hair clipped the pavement hard and fast in twenty dollar boots. Taxi cabs at three a.m. outside gas stations where stranded girls waited to be dropped back home, one lie away from being found out.
First open mic, nobody knew the place. One woman and a stack of paper held the floor with story after story. Bold, brash, and damn if I didn’t want to be her, brave. Micro audience of three.
Weeks later word got out with the tales and the music. I kicked my feet. Tapped fingers on tabletops. Guzzled sixteen ounce mugs of black bliss. Scared shitless.
Poetry then. Shaking on a bar stool, I was too red and timid to use the mic. Words. Then came words like all there was to life was to be nineteen on a bar stool in a coffeehouse reading poetry written in a spiral notebook with a black ink pen.
“Scare yourself,” he said.
And I was saved.
Welcome to V’sPlace. Leave your fear at the door.