The town is a throwback sort of town–the kind that experienced renaissance for about twenty years after World War II and then slowly began sporting vacant and fading storefronts like gaps in an aging man’s teeth. Its claim to fame is suffrage and some fictional movie that the current generation finds a symptom more than an inspiration. But even its famous bits sport homemade window displays and fading signage, dowdy souvenir T-shirts and mass-produced memorabilia.
Hanging a U-turn, we park in front of the souvenir shops and glance around, tucking our gloves into helmets, our earplugs into jacket pockets. The front street shows us a mingle of modern and old. A chic restaurant with smooth black windows is book-ended by the dusty front windows of two vacant stores. A sandwich board advertises a cafe with coffee and espresso and a creatively forgettable name: “around the corner,” arrow pointing.
We tuck away our things and randomly choose the way to go. Impromptu adventure. Hop on the bike and ride. Stop when we like, look at whatever.
We stroll up the sidewalk, hand in hand, our reflections strolling with us in the windows. Restaurant, bar, hair salon, art gallery with local finger paintings–the sort of culture you find in a town where culture has moved on. But there’s something about the effort–the try–that seems charming. We peruse the menus of the bars and the grills, as our stomachs grumble–burgers, chicken–nothing special.
We stumble around the corner and discover that tiny pocket of change, that charging of the atmosphere that’s hidden in forgotten places and tucked into secret alleys. If you blink, you miss them or turn your head at the wrong moment and you walk past. We trip down a walkway, headed for the river, and at the bottom of the alley another streamlined, modern set of windows stares back at us from an old brick facade. We read the menu and decide to take the chance. Two drinks. A garbage plate to share. A patio beside the water.
We take our drinks to an empty picnic table too large for just the two of us, and we sip as the yellow jackets dart through the air. A mother in a burnt orange dress chases her toe-headed daughter down the river path, and the floating docks clunk hollowly against the river wall. A boat floats by and leaves diamonds glittering atop of the crests of its wake.
When the trash plate comes, we talk about the food between mumbles of appreciation. We talk about the ride up, past the lakes and the fields and the beautiful country. We talk about everything and nothing.
Food gone–we walk along the river and meander back through town, over railroad tracks, past houses old enough to sag in their middles, past mansions forgotten and some restored, past churches with shuttered windows and rain-scarred boards.
When we come back to our bike, three men sit on the bench beside it. Each one stares at his phone and the noise of their screens reaches us as we pull on jackets and check for earplugs. The men say nothing unless it’s a comment on the game.
Finally, one says– hardly noticing our presence– “They still in there?”
The middle man casts a glance over his shoulder to the homemade display in the souvenir shop. “Yup,” he says.
My boyfriend laughs. “Are you waiting for wives?” he asks.
“Oh yes,” says the first man. “They’re shopping.” His eyes grow wide and expressive.
The men wish us a good day, and we climb back onto the bike with a giggle. Even in a place where time seems as if it’s racing faster than its streets can catch up, some things never change.
Hi there, Prose Lovers! I would love to hear about your own impromptu adventures. Those moments unplanned that throw your imagination into overdrive. Comment below, and let me know if there are other writing prompts you would like me to explore. And please, if you liked it, Like it! – K