They were a table of professionals clearly childless and in the prime of their working lives, out for a late lunch. I have no idea what common thread brought them all there or under what circumstances they were having that late lunch on a Monday afternoon. They did not make me privy to such table talk but I could not help but listens as they loudly declared the expense of Uber versus Lyft, hangovers from the evening before, sounds of gunshots in the night, “good” parts of the city verses “bad” parts. I cringed a little when they said that. I love this city, all of it and I was personally hurt by their statement.
They prattled on about old homes, abandoned schools and 7 degrees of Charles Barkley.
“People here all know someone who’ve met Charles Barkley”
They are not in that lot and to be quite frank neither am I. I’ve lived in Birmingham my whole life and I’ve never met Charles Barkley one time, but maybe I know someone who has and I am just unaware of it. They took inventory of landmarks they’d been to and some they needed to get to, there was talk of kayaking and hiking, yet none seemed to be rooted here in this red dirt and the “Old as Moses” barbecue place seemed to be a stop, or a check off on a list things to eat while in Birmingham, not a place they’d been eating at since they were children. They talked at a high volume as if they were the only folks in the place.
They took a selfie with the waitress. I felt sure, none could boast what my mother-in-law once did to me. We had come for a birthday lunch and she tapped on the lid of the signature sauce saying “My mama used to carry these in her glove box.” When I quizzed her why and when she declared “She really liked that sauce, it had’t’ve been around 1957 or ‘58.” The world here was a bit different back then I thought at the time.
I imagine my husband’s grandmother who’ve I have only seen in faded sepia toned photographs, loving that sauce like her one day would be granddaughter-in-law. I was thinking about that when my pondering was interrupted by my youngest.
“Why are they taking so loud?!”
She was frustrated with their verbose conversation. I had already noticed that some of them seemed to be nursing the aforementioned hangovers with additional libations. I merely stated in response,
“They’re just happy to be here.”
She shot back, “Well we’re happy to be here and we’re not that loud.” She was correct of course, we were happy to be there. Her older brother had evidently taken the same inventory I had and said bluntly,
“They’re drinking the ol’ tongue loosener.”
He too was correct.
I had just taken a drink of my co-cola (that’s how legit southerners will say coca-cola if left unchecked by their environment or company). When he stated the obvious, I nearly spit it out across the table.
My youngest asked for clarification which he quickly offered to give. I stopped him. He is not as genteel with his wording of sensitive matters at hand. I explained and as I listened to the young, professional, loud-talkers and immediately a verse, one that speaks of life and death and how it can be found in the tongue.
Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
There are words spoken that can bring life and encouragement and there are words that do the very opposite, bring death or in my case make the hearer cringe. As the young professional, touristy people left the restaurant and we settled into our meal I found myself grateful not that they were leaving, but that they had been there to demonstrate to me that if my tongue is to be loose may it be loosened with words of life and not ones of decay and ruin. May I always speak of light and life especially when I do not think anyone else is listening.