I was born in a city with a most unromantic name. Sprawling highways criss-cross like ventricles, heart pumping smog and seafoam. I was very young when I discovered this inadequacy in my narrative: a French girl on TV, pencil skirts and merci beaucoup, long cigarettes and a certain something. I was still in pink overalls when I began plotting my rebirth.
It took twenty-two years to escape; thirteen-hundred miles and a new way of speaking. The great irony, of course, is that Florida is now the most romantic truth I have. It took thirteen-hundred miles to see it for what it is: half L-shaped Havana; half backwoods back-hand. Palm trees in the yard and gators in the lake; cuban coffee thick as cream. A heat so oppressive as to almost have a voice. Southern discomfort and a tension you couldn’t slice with a hacksaw; shot gun houses and winds that will tear you from the ground. Postcards in gas stations: wish you were here. Florida isn’t a place to be born; it’s a place to visit on a bank holiday, or to die. It’s fucked up and beautiful and I don’t think I’ll ever live there again.
The Florida I resent– and there is a Florida I resent– is the Florida that doesn’t know what it is. White marble columns and sprinklers by the pool; a twenty-screen cineplex and another three doors down. Don’t you know where you are? You’re in the swampland, my friend. And it will swallow you whole.