It’s been so busy since I’ve been in Florida—I’ve been here for about ten days, most of it here in Miami, where I am spending my last night of this trip, but of course some up in Tampa to meet my my nephew and to make my sister and brother-in-law vegetarian lasagna. Since I’ve been here I’ve hung out with my mom a lot and met friends from high school for dinner and gone to Target and gone to the Apple Store on South Beach like, seriously, three times in five days, and gone swimming and to the beach with Manya and her husband and kids and eaten morros y maduros, all the normal things, the usual and familiar things. It’s been easy to forget that this is my last time, really, on the island. Tonight’s my last night.
My mom is moving to Tampa in June to be nearer my sister’s family. This is something she’s been thinking of for quite a while—we discussed it in depth when she came to visit me in Wellington in March—and we all agree this is a good move for her, for so many reasons. She’s lived here for thirty years and is just kind of done with Miami, I think. I can’t blame her—I’m done too. In fact I can’t even really say I’m done because I’m not sure I was ever not done. It’s been so strange to see all the old things—Coconut Grove, Sir Pizza, the iced lemonade truck that’s still at the park across the street from my old middle school—and to have memories surrounding them, kind of, but for it to be all negligible, surface. I grew up here. I lived here, and then I didn’t, and now I don’t. And now I won’t ever live here again, not even for a week’s holiday.
I keep thinking of all the things I didn’t do on this trip: didn’t take a picture of my elementary school because I had to wrangle with the people at the Apple Store; didn’t make it down the beach to the lighthouse because the tide was too high and it was all trashy with seaweed and it was too hot and too rainy; didn’t go to Vizcaya because we decided on a Labor Day trip to Fairchild Tropical Gardens instead. I wasn’t a very good tourist, this time around—I never am, because I still can’t really think of myself as such, even though it’s so gaspingly clear I don’t belong here. Why would you take pictures of your backyard? It’s just your yard, it’s always going to be your yard. It’s just there—the only thing that changes about it is you.
I guess it’s plausible that I may come for a visit to Miami again in the future; when we all went out to dinner last week the girls were saying that our twentieth high school reunion is in two years and that I should come for it. I guess I could stay with friends here, if I wanted, off the island where I wouldn’t have to tack a good forty minutes’ drive onto every outing. I could visit, I guess, the way I visit the Bay Area and Seattle.
I was packing up my huge orange suitcase this evening (it’s full of new shoes and silly presents for the Wellingtonians) when Mom said she had some papers for me to go through while I’m here, to save her having to sort through them all when she makes the move. I had done heaps of that sort of thing about three years ago and winnowed down the whole mess to several large file folders, so it didn’t take too long to shave it down even further, getting rid of old HMO paperwork and tax receipts. I kept some letters, some documents from when I was trying to get an Italian passport and to be registered as a social worker in the UK. I took pictures of some old drama club t-shirts and of the little guidebook I made for myself when I went to Europe in 2004. I kept all the old pictures. I saved out some crafty things I’d made to decorate my very first apartment, and a big bellydance necklace.
I don’t want this, I kept telling myself as I was sitting on the floor sorting through it all, I don’t need this. This can go, this and this and this can all all go. This island only exists in my mind and memory, and it doesn’t matter where I am physically, because even if I’m here, I’m not there, because there is gone.