When I was a kid, it was where the mall was. Nothing else about it mattered. Fifteen minutes and the ride lasted forever, and Rocky Mount was just the collection of streets upon which we traveled.
It’s the railroad tracks. It’s sitting on the deck at Chico’s, staring at the river, talking about all the things that matter in life and feeding tortilla chips to the turtles. It’s watching people fish at City Lake. It’s Charlie, the homeless man who stops in the parking lot at Good Shepherd to ask for a prayer and a snack and to tell me that God loves me and he does, too, and he won’t let nobody bother me when I walk down the street.
I hosted some great parties on Charlotte Street. People came together, brought their guitars and their beer and their stories and their personalities, and celebrated – the New Year, the end of the play, new friends, birthdays, summer. Horse shoes, Rock Band, Twister in the kiddie pool. The neighbors were invited and nobody complained to the cops about the music or the noise or the cars parked all up and down the street. Turned out I was continuing a grand tradition – the lady across the street said there were parties on my lot back in the ‘50s, when they cooked on the outdoor oven still in my backyard and the whole neighborhood turned out, and people visited from all around to drive down the street and see the azaleas in bloom
I moved back from Asheville with $400 in my pocket. I went to the Executive Inn and rented a room for a week for $140. Somehow I ended up telling the guy behind the counter that I didn’t have a job but I was looking for one and would have money the next week to keep the room. In the morning his mother called my room and asked if I wanted a job at the Shoney’s Inn in Gold Rock. Her daughter Kapila owned it, like Mrs. Patel owned the one I was living in. I started immediately. When Kapila had her baby shower, the Patels arranged the schedule so that all employees could attend at least part. It was the first time I ate curry, the first time I saw women dressed in real saris, the first time I was invited to participate in a celebration outside of my own culture. It was awesome.
It’s sitting outside of Westridge Grill listening to acoustic guitar. It’s kayaking from Battle Park to 97 and nearly tipping out when the spider runs up your leg. It’s striking up a conversation with the guy outside the coffee house smoking cigarettes with a parrot on his shoulder. It’s finding out that your coworker was once arrested for chaining herself to the White House fence during a civil rights march, and that the woman two pews up has a novel that made it into the top 50 Kindle books for several weeks in a row.
When I was a teen, it was where my friends were. Nothing else about it mattered. Fifteen years and our lives were going to last forever, and Rocky Mount was just the backdrop of the stage upon which we strutted.
Jenny Braswell grew up in rural Nash County. She left immediately after high school and lived in various places around Asheville and Charlotte before returning to reside in Rocky Mount. Jenny is a proud alumna and employee of Nash Community College and an ARIA-certified riding instructor at Roma’s Clydesdale Farm, home of A Chance in the Country. She recently discovered that you actually can go home again and moved back to a corner of the county, where she chases around after her three kids, two dogs, a handful of horses, and her pet pig. In her spare time, she does laundry.