I don’t like the way it ends.
The tape will not stick to the side of the box. I press it down, smooth it out, but it still curls over itself in a backbend, hanging down. When the boxes are filled, when my boyfriend arrives to help move them into the truck, will the tape still stick to the bottom?
Maciej sends me boxes. He also sends me candies— Polish chocolate marshmallow candies, Cadbury Creme Eggs out of season. This is because he is infinitely practical, and because he won’t be there to help me move. Chocolates are practical things, when you consider that for all our reason, we are irrational beings with things called emotions.
I keep saying that I’m not sad to be moving, but it’s not true. But if I tell people I’m sad, my thoughts and feelings are flattened: suddenly I’m just sad, and there is only sad. People try to cheer you up.
Chocolates aren’t addressed to cheer. They are small edible comforts, bypassing the flat, trite explanations. They are favorites. They take care of something, just having them. They are doing emotional work. “I’m here, though I’m not.”
I am elated. It’s a small city, Tallahassee. I will get to explore it by bicycle. There are pecan trees everywhere. What does a ripe pecan look like? I will never pay for pecans again.
I am leaving the only satisfying retail position I have ever worked. I am leaving friends that I want to pull around me like a blanket. I know where all the mango trees overhang the roads. It is mango season. There are seasons in South Florida, and this is the one for rain and mangoes. There are mangoes ripening on my counter while everything but my knife and cutting board are in boxes.
I will be able to grow blueberries, for the first time in almost twenty years.
Maciej sends me emails.
I am fucking tired of packing. I am tired of the tape falling off. I am tired. I cycle to my favorite coffee shop. They have gotten a new espresso machine, and the shots taste just right. They nestle just off Himmarshee Street, across from the railroad tracks where the freight trains thunder through every so often.
I open an email from Maciej. He has typed “words on moving and nostalgia and relationships” into the subject line.
My coffee is perfect.
“Things you should do in [Fort Lauderdale]:
I am sitting at a wooden table in the coffee shop window, waiting for a train to pass. I have been waiting for almost an hour, but nothing has gone by, and the people in business suits meander in and out, taking steaming paper cups with them.
“– Hug your coworkers if that sort of thing’s okay.
– Hug EVERYONE”
There are not enough hugs in the world, and I have hugged coworkers again and again, had dinner over at houses, felt tears pricking my eyes during conversation. I have hugged friends I never hug, hugged friends I always hug. I feel like I’m trying to hug the ground itself here.
“Things to keep in mind:
– Boxes need to be closed on the bottom; the top can be left open.
My coffee is perfect. I will have to buy more tape. There is a freight train finally coming. I can feel it through my toes.
“– < 3 "
I’ve missed travel. Since I moved to the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area, I have barely gotten to travel just around the state, and even then, it’s only been to places known and loved and longed for.
This weekend, I am in Tallahassee, which curls like a tiny sliver of rusted upstate New York embedded in in the muscle tissue of the outskirts of Atlanta. It claims to be a city. I suppose it is, but it feels like a corroded eroded shell of a town. It reeks of politics. It feels like a college wasteland.
Passing by rows of frat houses, I realize how strange my college experience was. I never had to deal with a fraternity, and even mid week, these buildings wore a halo of unkempt decay. I felt like an intruder.
Home crept in around Railroad Square, decked in yarn and spray paint. The old tumble-down warehouses all repurposed for art, it felt like the city of Megaton in Fallout 3, and in the breeze, I could hear metal creak. The red orange sun sliding below the horizon lit the red orange rust gilding the corrugated steel. But even here, except for the rock climbing gym, the dirt paths rolled up at 6pm, an artsy extension of Punta Gorda.
I admit it. I love this place in pieces. I want to carry slices in pockets to take out and devour at odd times by the railroad tracks off Himmarshee, want to crumble it and sprinkle it into forsythia strewn neighborhoods of Queens, want to wear it about Tampa under silent high rises that all close up at night. I want to carry it with me, these parts and pieces to cobble together a vision of home.
My grandmother, Muriel, was a hard-edged, depression-era woman. She reused the tinfoil from her lunch wrappings. It is because of her that I am loathe to waste food, cloth, wood, anything. It is because of her that when I see large yards filled with nothing but lawn, I cringe.
Do you know what it takes to maintain a lawn? How many gallons of gasoline per year to keep that grass short clipped? How much extra water it takes to keep green plants that don’t belong growing in Florida’s climate? How many types of pesticides to keep at bay the white grubs, the fire ants (damned invaders), the beneficial creatures that no one loves, the wasps and bees and spiders? It breaks my heart.
What would it look like if every yard were filled instead with native palms and slash pines, with live oaks or sand oaks or laurel? What would it look like if everyone grew plants that belonged here or edible ones, no lawns for miles, but instead tomatoes and okra and arrowhead and cocoplums? What if we had neighborhood mills for all those acorns, to blanch and grind into flour? What if we ate from our yards, even in cities?
So much waste. I can only hold so many plants on my balcony, wanting to grow hedges of pomegranate, but only able to keep kitchen herbs. My tiny pots are at least an inroad. I will attempt to transform what little space I have into a hanging garden. I will attempt to keep our bellies full. I will attempt to gift my growings to others, who likewise see the potential of unwasted space.
It is a specific image: Las Olas Boulevard headed west from the beaches at dusk, the trees along the median just lit, their trunks ringed in white strands of tiny bright bulbs, the European starlings taking to the air, black against the deepening blue of the sky. The high rises and bank building rise up just behind, and the shops and classy restaurants entice the tourists speaking French, Portuguese, German.
I mismatch. I live not too far away, but with no money in my pockets, the fine cigars and fair trade gifts can’t tempt me. I admire them as the fancy “open” placards on doors flip faces, “closed.” I walk on to the park, the trees glowing from below, blue to green to warm amber, through the rainbow, creating ghosts from shadow, the park emptying of passers-by.
I am mistaken for a bum with my scrap scarf and fingerless gloves, though they were $5 leftovers from a designer boutique. It shows that they are seasons out of date. My planned scruffiness has no place in the face of this affluence. I wonder if anyone really belongs, behind the cracking façades of liquid money. The empty store fronts as I close on Andrews give it the lie.
I am not a cooping-up creature. I love the city. I love the streets and alleys and the stretch of tall buildings, the late night places, the light spilling at odd angles across sidewalks, the feeling of asphalt under my feet.
I do not love so very little space to garden. I have a balcony full of plants right now, all constrained in pots, and wanting room to unfurl. Maybe some deeper troughs for hardier roots.
And that’s what I miss most about Port Charlotte, though I never thought I’d say it: a yard with a garden. My okra with buttermilk blooms and raisin tinted middles. My peppers popping capsaicin red under the autumn sun. My pomegranate’s dragon-tongued blossoms shedding petals, then rounding, rounding into heavy fruit.
I thought in moving to Miami, I had to trade all of that to have a city. It was the one thing I was reluctant to give up, but it was worth it to be in a place that didn’t fall asleep before eight, that felt like it breathed deep breaths before dancing through the night in a swirl of sodium arc orange and neon glow. A place all food and sound and bodies and thrum. It was a welcome trade, and expected loss. I weighed it carefully when I made my choice.
And then I met Kit and Mouse. They were coworkers in the electronics store, lived in Fort Lauderdale, and owned a beautiful little house with walls painted teal and green apple and sage, with a yard full of bees. You know: the ill-mowed scraggle that cradles little white wildflowers of a million sorts, a secret feast for insects on the wing. And they asked me to help with their garden.
Suddenly, I didn’t have to choose. My city-self well-fed, my night-roamer uncaged, and now my gardener girl, overalled and barefoot, had been invited out to play, too. I helped plant scallions, prepare raised vegetable beds with peat moss and compost. As Kit and Mouse expand their gardening to include an urban chicken coop, their own bees in top bar hives, more raised beds for tomatoes and eggplant and okra and squash, I’ll get to be there to help. I don’t have to trade my sanity for my green thumb.