The best server at Franklin Park is aptly named Frankie, though for the longest time we couldn’t remember his name. Of course, this had something to do with the amount of rosé we consumed. We come to the bar to drink wine and eat fries every Friday. We order the kind that are covered in grated parmesan and sprinkled with some combination of green herbs and garlic. The alliteration of fries on Friday and Frankie of Franklin Park is not lost on us—we studied literature in college, a time when I dreamed of being a poet until I was old enough to write a memoir.
But now we find ourselves teaching twelve-year-olds who can barely identify a simile. And yet, they occasionally astound me. For example, the kid who wrote a personal narrative that opened with, “Back then, people used to call me Johnny.” For whatever reason this line will never leave me, and I actually told him so to his face quite recently.
We heard, “Miss Higgins! Miss Stemmer!” and saw him approaching, and I quickly put the cigarette I was about to light back in my pocket. Stemmer recognized Jonathan almost immediately, though it had been almost three years.
He asked if we could believe he is a junior now, and as he smiled his braces reflected the light from the bodega. Then he told us we were great and memorable teachers, and he misses us a lot in high school where the teachers are boring. Later, I regret repeating his opening narrative line to him, though I only wanted to return a compliment. But I wonder if my enthusiasm gave away the fact that I’d been drinking.
That’s the thing about Frankie—he pours the glasses to the brim. They are the narrow kind, the type that are made for some sort of white wine, and we drag them slowly along the wobbly plastic tables to our lips to take the first sip. When empty, they are taken and refilled before we can order another, but we are always only charged for one round: two drinks at six dollars a glass.
We talk of teaching, mostly, but now that we do not teach at the same school there is too much exposition necessary to really dive into the drama, which is nice because in this way we become more friends than colleagues. Stemmer is one of my closest friends, and this is the way you keep them. You have a standing date at a place that’s cheap and close to home, where you can always get a table.
Every so often, one of us has to cancel because “I’m meeting my mom for dinner!” or “I’m doing a thirty-day yoga challenge and unfortunately I can’t skip Fridays!” We also know it’s always okay to bring friends. One regular is my friend Zachary, who works as a freelance illustrator and lives in Bushwick, whom I met when I was ten. Sometimes we run into John, who teaches high school and writes poetry. He and I both like Christian Wiman and I trust his nonfiction book recommendations. He’s usually with his wife, who works in publishing and participates in pinball tournaments and will play at the machines by the bathrooms. They regularly frequent Franklin Park and other bars with these practice opportunities. Another regular is Colie, who teaches math in Manhattan. When I first met her, in Budapest, I loved her immediately. She told me she used to work in finance, but gave up her enviable salary to teach and travel and find true happiness.
At Franklin Park, we sit outside when it’s warm enough, and we leave before it gets too late. We leave Frankie a large tip in cash. Some evenings, I convince my comrades to come home with me. I repeatedly insist that they won’t be intruding as we walk down Franklin Avenue to my apartment. Here, my husband, who is just home from work, grabs his first beer of the weekend out of the fridge and we decide what to order for dinner and then put on Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings or The Office, depending on the mood.
It’s pretty much the same every week. But I like the comfort of routines. And I know that one day we’ll look back on these days and say, “We too lived—Franklin Park of Franklin Avenue was ours.”
Caroline (Higgins) Nyczak (’11) lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she spends the vast majority of her time teaching English Language Arts. You may also find her at barre exercise classes or playing (and losing) at bar trivia. She continues to be inspired by the energy and diversity of New York City and the beauty of that certain slant of light.