Inside the Brown Bag

Posted by:
Susan Rooke
September 29, 2016

Readers, I’m excited and honored to be able to present this snapshot memory from award-winning poet and writer Diana L. Conces. Diana’s photo and bio appear at the end of her piece. Enjoy this post from my first guest blogger!

Inside the Brown Bag

In junior high, I would visit my father in the summers at his house outside Sinton, west of Corpus Christi. He was a welder, and often he would bring me with him to work. I would sit at the wooden desk in the office, reading books and playing on the Smith Corona typewriter. Every night after work, we would get on his red Kawasaki motorcycle and he would stop at the Brown Bag #2 for a few beers.

The Brown Bag was, as its name suggests, not a classy joint. Picture a portable building, square, nondescript, brown siding bleached in the Aransas Pass sun and abraded by the salty air, sitting on a slab of concrete carved out of the wheat fields beside State Highway 35. Add a few pickup trucks, old and equally weathered, pulled up beside the Kawasaki. Inside, you know it’s going to be dim—like the inside of a brown bag, in fact—bare bulbs over the bar. The bar is a simple wood square, inside the simple wood square of the building, inside the cracked concrete square of the parking lot, inside the carved out square of wheat farms, a matryoshka of squares, because squares, like brown bags, are fast and simple to make, for people who need a fast and simple place to drink. No windows, silly, because the kind of drinking you do at the Brown Bag is the private kind, and inner demons grow testy in daylight. I would perch on an out-of-the-way stool with this week’s set of Agatha Christie murder mysteries, courtesy of the Sinton Public Library, and Janie would pour me a Coke and pass Dad his first Budweiser.

He came to the Brown Bag for Janie. There were other bars, rowdier bars, loud places with jukeboxes and hard men with hard emotions my eleven-year-old brain wasn’t quite ready to label, places that made me wary and on edge. But mostly we went to the Brown Bag because Janie was there and he loved her, quietly and unrequited. I found a letter after he died, the sort of awkward letter you write when you’re thinking about someone, when you’re wearing their memory like a sweater, but you can’t say something so big, so the words come out like an elementary school pen pal letter, small talk and daily affairs, while the things unsaid seep out through the negative space. He must’ve known that the words were too small, because he never sent it. Janie was always kind to both of us, and she would bring me paperback romance novels to read sometimes and ask me questions. It was Janie who called, twenty years later, to tell me he was dying in the hospital of a cancer he didn’t know he had.

From my corner seat, I picked up bits of conversation, observations on love and loneliness, friendship and despair, and a peek at what it really means to be an alcoholic. I saw the lonely drunks sitting silent at the bar, looking for hope and finding only a bit of foam at the bottom of the glass. I have at times drank regularly and occasionally heavily, but there’s a line I never cross, a line that looks a little bit like Highway 35 outside Aransas Pass.

diana-conces-head-shot Diana L. Conces lives in Round Rock, Texas, with her mother, three children, and a pair of desperate housecats. Somehow, she occasionally finds time to write poetry and short stories. Her work has been published in numerous anthologies, including Black Fox Literary Magazine (Vol. 14); Best of Austin Poetry (2 volumes); Tic Toc, Petals in the Pan, Secrets and Dreams, and Shattered from Kind of a Hurricane Press; Texas Poetry Calendar (2 editions) and Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems from Dos Gatos Press; Blue Hole; Animal Tales; and artlines2: Art Becomes Poetry. She has won numerous local contests and has had one of her poems appear on a Capitol Metro bus.

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5 comments on “Inside the Brown Bag”

  1. Thank you, Diana. A wonderful remembrance with which we can all identify, as we all have our muted brown bags of one sort or another. And thank you, Susan, for expanding your horizons, and ours in the process. Best, John Hoag

  2. Such rich writing, Diana. You drew me in. Thank you for sharing, and for 'head-lining' this week's blog of Susan's.

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