Their voices, low and quiet then loud and excited, ran up the steps and into the store with the excitement of a lonely dog seeing his masters return from a long day of work. It was that brilliant lazy hour between sunset and moonrise as the men lounged on cement steps behind the t.v. repair shop listening to stories, jokes and the crackle of cigarettes burning dimly in the fading light. They knew each other well and it showed in the easy smiles they exchanged. Eyes affixed to the storyteller even though most of the men had heard most of these stories more than once.
It wasn’t the content of the story so much as the place it brought those who were telling it. Retelling their story was the closest they would ever come to being there again. That particular point in history had passed them by like the coastal coal trains that rolled by the docks catching the early morning light. It was fully there one moment, with all the sound and smoke to prove it, and then gone the next, leaving nothing but a ringing in your ears and the smell of coal dust on your winter coat.
And in this way their evening gathering became a way for them to lift themselves from the struggles of the present to live in the glories of the past. The past was at the mercy of the one remembering it. Hard times became bearable when told looking back, good times became great and the moments between hardship and greatness took on familiar warmth that only time could create. Time allowed for space. Space between the moment past and the present moment. In that space imagination could take over and add to or take away the varying elements that went into the wondrous tale you heard being weaved into your very being.
Eventually twilight came and with it the orange glow of tungsten bulbs illuminating porches and living rooms. A series of lasts soon followed the pending night.
Last stories, last cigarettes, last goodbyes.