A cup of the Sumatran coffee and a blueberry muffin. Or the blueberry cobbler coffee when they had it on tap. Or the raspberry white chocolate latte when I felt like slurping down the sugar. Those crispy, crinkled french fries. The pepperoni panini (sans pepperoni when I was in my vegetarian phase) with the marinara dipping sauce.
It never really mattered what I ordered at Something Brewing; the food and drinks always hit the spot. What mattered most were the countless hours I spent at the coffee house engaged in intimate conversations with close friends or those many moments I was alone, thinking and writing.
When I started to crave independence at age 15, Something Brewing was my oasis. It was the one place I could act like the adult I so desperately wanted to be. Nearly every day after school, I would walk — or drive, once I got my car — the six blocks from my house, always armed with either a book, newspaper, laptop or my diary, depending on my mood. Some days, all four when I expected to camp out for a while.
Something Brewing is where I filled out all 13 of my college applications. Where I decided to attend Loyola. Where I researched the first candidate for whom I ever voted. Where I once broke up with a boyfriend, on the phone — screaming. Where I decided high school was the absolute worst. Where I spilled lots of ink in my diary over petty problems I can’t even recall today. Where I learned to love the written word.
I still remember the first time I visited after leaving for college in Chicago. I felt slightly self-conscious stepping inside, like somehow being away for two months had turned me into an outsider. But that anxiety quickly transformed into elation when Larry, the owner, came to the front cash register and immediately recognized me.
Larry kept recognizing me, even when I’d be absent three months… six months… a year. He’d ask me about Chicago, how I liked it. He told me he and his wife, Liz, had visited a few years ago. They loved it. I told him I shared that sentiment.
I always made a point to schedule a visit to Something Brewing when I went home, even if I was only in town for 48 hours. That charming coffee house, devoid of any pretension, was an extension of my family — my happy place.
I now live somewhere and in circumstances for which I am incredibly thankful. Back then, that wasn’t the case, even though in retrospect, it probably should have been. In high school, I viewed each day as nothing more than one fewer until I could move far away and never look back. Something Brewing was where I opined and whined. It was the backdrop of my fond memories from those dreadful teenage years. It was my first true love.
After phoning Something Brewing incessantly the past few days, without ever getting an answer, I texted my dad and asked him to stop by the coffee house to confirm the nasty rumor I’d read on Facebook about its close.
He confirmed. “After 14 yrs no more SB,” he texted. “They really missed your business.”
I missed them too.
I just hope future generations of angst-ridden teenage girls from Conway, Ark., who are desperate to escape their hometown, can find a similar place that makes them feel at home.