Upon waking in my brother's air-conditioned apartment, my first thought was coffee. Still somewhat in a stupor from the alcohol consumed only hours before, I stumbled my way through the half-dark into the kitchen. A vague memory of my brother telling me to wake him up so he could put coffee on for me echoed through my brain. "Heh," I thought to myself, "how hard could it be?". After spending fifteen minutes fucking with his Keurig coffee-maker, I knocked on his bedroom door.
Sleepily he stumbled out of his bedroom and proceeded to give me an extremely sarcastic demonstration of how to use it, a shit-eating grin on his face the whole time. By all means and definitions, the machine hadn't even been plugged in. I blame it on the booze.
After waiting only a minute or two for my single-serve cup of coffee, I bee-lined to the balcony. The mid-morning sun was a stark contrast to the interior of the apartment. I let my eyes adjust and surveyed the scene. Remnants from the night before were scattered across the concrete floor. Empty bottles of beer were turned on their side, cigarette butts soaking in the backwash like a tequila worm. Ashes mottled the whitewash. I hadn't even been in town twelve hours and I was already leaving a path of destruction. "It's great to be home," I thought.
We spent an hour or two talking, sipping gourmet coffee. Plans had been made to meet up with Robin and my mom at my absolute favorite Fort Wayne restaurant, Liberty Diner. It's been a staple for the city for over twelve years now, and a personal staple of mine for at least half that long. They've got the essentials and nothing else. Hot coffee, incredibly cheap prices as well as the best food you could possibly ask for.
My brother, his fiance and I headed through the backstreets of Fort Wayne on our way to the diner. Warehouse lots stretched and curved into construction sites. Roads once completely open were halfway shut down for construction. The city itself seemed to be expanding while it was conversely self-destructing. This sort of clash made me feel comfortable. I knew this kind of struggle, it seemed. Like it was some sort of grandiose metaphor for life. The sun reflecting off of the flatland did not help my hangover, however.
Before I even arrived at the restaurant, I knew exactly what I wanted to order. Upon arrival, I felt like I had stumbled into a time warp. Not one single thing had changed. Hell, the exact same tables were in the exact same places they had been when I last saw them years ago. The menu hadn't altered at all, either. The exact same selections were there. It didn't feel anachronistic. It felt like home.
The lot of us drank coffee and talked and goofed off, my mother keeping relatively quiet and taking it all in. I could tell by the smile on her face she was happy to be surrounded by her boys and their true loves. Just to show her I haven't changed that much, I acted like a brat for old time's sake.
After lunch, we stopped at an empty lot and loaded up some abandoned wooden palettes into my mom's van. She needed them for the house to store firewood. Although it was all of five minutes of manual labor, it felt good to at least do a little something to help out. I had already been mooching for what seemed like too long.
Robin and I had my brother swing by a liquor store to acquire a particular beer that us here in Portland simply cannot get. The irony of it being that it's my favorite beer. After perusing every single cooler and shelf the first store, it was nowhere to be found. I made him drive us to yet another liquor store. I had the same luck, but I felt confident. I asked the clerk if he had any left in stock and he went into the back to look. He came out carrying a solitary twelve-pack, ice-cold. It was the very last one. I walked out feeling victorious, carrying the cardboard and glass above my head like a trophy.
We went back to the apartment and cracked the beers. It had been over a year since the urban wheat ale had touched my lips. It was all I could do to not chug the entire bottle down. Soon thereafter, our friend Colleen decided to come over and hang out. We had been in the middle of playing video games when she arrived. We exchanged Mario Bros. for music, and began catching up. We clinked beers and talked, spending most of our time on the balcony, shaded from the sun. After a few more beers, my hangover was nonexistent.
She filled us in on her life, the new goings on and everything in between. We updated her on all of the shows we had been to this year, the shows coming up, my gig as merch guy for Faster Housecat and the like. "Man, your guys' lives rule," she said smiling. I could sense the slight tinge of jealousy in her voice, but it wasn't mean-spirited. It was a friend being truly happy for those close to her. Little reminders like this littered our entire week in Fort Wayne, bringing Robin and I closer to reassessing our ideals for home.