i went to florida last week. i believe this was my 29th visit. i went with my family. brian, two children. we met my father and mother there, in florida.
since retiring, dad has developed this routine where he rents the best condo out of five buildings for the entire, off season-rated month of september. he keeps it booked two years in advance. he is very serious about this. it's a corner unit with two bedrooms. room 469. you can wash the dishes and look up to see nothing but ocean. but somehow, you always forget to look up when washing dishes.
i missed a handful of years back when i was doing things like having newborns and one year olds during the summer, and a stack of hospital bills. we took oliver when he was two. my last concurrent trip was the week i began suspecting i was pregnant with oliver. or, who would later become oliver. just me and dad. THAT WAS UNCOMFORTABLE.
brian would sit at his job in the old, now burned down condom store and urge me to find a reason to borrow my dad's car to go down to the drug store for a pregnancy test, which i would then urinate on and find out i was pregnant by myself in a condo bathroom.
i waited until i returned home and couldn't sleep and got up at 6am and then freaked out and cried to my sister on the phone about HOW ARE THEY GOING TO GET IT BACK OUT!? and then went around noon to tell brian, who was still sleeping soundly and not at all concerned with solidarity. i handed a box of ft walton beach saltwater taffy to someone dressed in socks, underwear, and a tshirt and told him he was going to be a father. i mean, PUT SOME PANTS ON instead of scarring my taffy memories.
i went to florida last week. second year in a row. dad now offers free accomodations, so we just pay $300 for gas, a beach umbrella with two chairs, and a couple of dinners out. it's hard to say no to a $300 paradise. brian was a little financially freaked out because the week before, he had to have a sonogram, or whatever they're called when there's not a baby involved, because he keeps urinating blood and having back pain the day after everytime our a/c goes out, and he started having other pains one day and our increasingly stupid insurance has a $1500 deductible and we just finished pulling the trigger on $1800 worth of insulation and radiant barrier and today, the $2800 dollar re-roofing trigger was pulled, and that's never mind about the way our house is still sinking into the soil two years later. brian asked for the babyless sonogram instead of the more expensive ct scan because maybe we'd be out less money. but after the inconclusive monogram, he went on to being violated by a more specialized lady doctor who signed him up for the scan anyhow.
we went to florida last week. i said i'd pick up the vacation tab, as it's a mid-term election year, which provides for fatter paychecks for me for a handful of months and i can briefly pretend i'm not taking a really long descent into moneylessness.
i stressed and floundered about leaving oskar and finally signed up andrea and darren to visit him daily and take him into the vet for fluids a handful of times. he did not die or deteriorate while we were gone, but did take to the new and curious habit of curling up on my motherfucking laptop keyboard. not to be outdone, ozzy began hanging out on a barstool and then realized how easy it was to haul himself up to the kitchen counter, where he will recline unabashedly for us to see. i do not understand why they are doing these things.
i made the epic drive a week ago saturday. the children did not fall asleep until 20 minutes before the lunch stop and refused to sleep again. for the entire remaining six hour drive. they slept through the crossing of the mississippi river, despite my best attempts at slapping their thighs from the driver's seat. after much fruitless searching, we stopped in vicksburg for lunch at mcalister's deli. every item off the children's menu is adorned with a packlette of teddy grahams. the applesauce side comes with not one, but two kinds of corn syrup.
i snapped on the radio just in time to go underwater via the bankhead tunnel in mobile so that we could hear it turn to static. i dutifully pointed out the battleship alabama and the first sightings of ocean water as we crossed the bridge. we made the usual extra stop so oliver could poop.
we finally rolled into the el matador parking lot at dusk and before removing a single piece of luggage, we quickly moved the few remaining yards by foot so that we could see the ocean disappear into the darkness.
our old lives fell quickly away. we have always lived here. on the beach. in the sand. walking in water.
despite my best efforts at applying sunscreen and wearing a shirt and sitting under a thick, canvas umbrella, i will quickly find myself adopting the appearance of a 42 year old, crinkly, brown paper bag. my melasma increased in strength.
on sunday, i skipped walking at 6:30am with dad and gave myself a break. i was exhausted from missing a night of sleep thursday in order to be with my niece and her boyfriend for the birth of her third child, samuel. and i had gotten up pre-crack of dawn on saturday.
on monday, i continued to give myself a break.
on tuesday, i woke up and before exiting bed, i already knew that my lower lip was rebelling against the sun exposure and had swelled to double its normal size, which is no small thing for my already large lip. it occurred to me the same thing had happened last year, but the sparkling sun-filled water memories had pushed it right out the brain door. i was too embarrassed to go out like that and chose, instead, to photograph it and post it to the internet.
this continued for two more days. i'm not sure if it was the sun or the water or a combination, but i couldn't dial back all that much. the weather was impeccable and the water was crystal clear, save for a few batches of trash, sunglasses, and jellyfish. i couldn't stop going out there. my fear of being in the same pool as billions of slimy, dangerous sea creatures could not assuage my desires. the threat of burning to a crisp and having my lip explode right off my face did not slow me down. the adventurous red flag days had subsided into smooth, rippling waters and, at one particularly glorious point, i nearly started singing the ocean version of the hills are alive, except i didn't know of one. i was spinning and pontificating about beauty to brian. i wanted to wrap myself in the water, but that would have killed me.
eventually, the face herpes began to manifest. i already looked like a waterlogged, stringy pile of shit, and the lighting in the bathroom was terrible, so i marched on and took it in stride and tried to roll my lip in when passing other people.
when brian and i went on date night the last night there, i made him let me choose the spot where my lip sore would be closest to the wall at noonie's thai cafe. and then, i realized i was under a spotlight and facing where the owner had set himself up. perhaps they burned the forks after we left.
while seeing if noonie's still existed, i was reminded of this particular online review:
Wow, what a experience! The owner, tried to sale me heroin. And, I just meet him! Unbelievable! My advice, stay away, unless ur into drugs.
i held this information in my mind as we dined. we pulled up to a curious smoking fire in a can out in the parking lot. they use this for burning forks. i suspect the area might have been some kind of patio. once inside and seated, the owner commented that everything could be made vegetarian. he remembered us from a year ago. there were no other diners there as we ate, save for a very talkative patron, who apparently reguarly visited. he hopped up and recommended the sweet and sour with delicious pineapple before disappearing. he might have been there last year, and was rather tweakerish.
i thought, well, i suppose it might be really easy to remember some of the few people who actually came in for the food... if this was actually a front for a heroin operation. they launder their money in the pad kee mao. which is delicious, by the way. the literally tubular tables and chairs reminded me of malls in the early 90s and the small space has two dueling big screen televisions. while we dined and chatted, i noticed the owner perk up to a presence outside and he went thataway. he returned. later, he went out to talk with a woman i could see through a crack in the door who was wearing a bikini top. no food ever went outside with him.
they only accepted cash payments, the owner said as he referenced the non-existent sign on the door.
so. perhaps we ate dinner in a drug den. it's difficult to say.
we took one last turn through alvin's islands to purchase postcards of a bikini-clad lady with an impossible thong and naked cats (oliver was in want to make a billboard of florida cats for oskar and had already purchased one with his very own souvenir money). i made brian purchase these cards and a different bikini lady card earlier in the week, when the sales girl tried to upsell him to a cheaper bulk rate.
not ready to let go of utopia, we took beers down to the pool and i tried to imagine being 7. 10. 14. swimming in that pool. night swimming. we talked about what our dreams of the future had been before we met. did we want kids and a big house? i previously wanted to marry in the woods while wearing a red crushed velvet dress. 90s edition.
we left at 7am saturday and returned to dallas at 8:30pm. on the way out, i tried desperately to keep the radio tuned to 80s hits that would evoke the youthful angst of all my other beach departures, tucked in the backseat of a volare or a cutlass sierra. the radio provided. cars, everytime you go away, vacation (all i ever wanted). the three hour drive from shreveport to home threatened to push me over the edge.
our house felt weird. it smelled weird. it smelled really bad, i suppose from being shut up? but the litter was clean. what was that smell? is it always here? CATS. i blame it on the cats. foul creatures. maybe we have not found all the treasures from oskar's pre-vacation excrement fest where he pooped inside the plug on the air mattress and pooped in the path of the vacuum cleaner before i realized what was happening. if your cat is plugged up, i highly recommend greenie's intestinal treats and a small, closed room.
my lip is 65% healing herpes sores. if you are at all familiar, that means i am in the phase where they are crusting and chapping and bleeding profusely. where lip flesh is torn and curdled and raw and stinging. i have tried my best to remove myself from the public, but it is not working. i have to explain, "vacation was great! look at these sun allergies!" brian always says, "i can't see anything," and he is obviously lying or blind and i can never trust him again regarding appearances.