Florida Gothic

shawarmachameleon:

– It is late at night in the balmy summer. The damp air clings to you like something too familiar, causing hairs to stick to the back of your neck. Crickets and frogs mingle together and hum in your ears in one brilliant cacophony. It reminds you that you are not alone. A train calls out and echos across the water, a phantom reminder of days goneby. The moonlight is draped across your shoulders and you can taste the spanish moss and the old ghosts on your tongue. The hair no longer sticks to the back of your neck.

– it is impossibly bright. You squint your eyes and shield them with your baked hands and yet it is still too bright to see. You close your eyes and stare out ahead of you. Your eyelids are chocolate brown and you can see every spidery capillary. Fairy lights dance across your vision. It is still too bright.

– You walk down a gravel road and swipe a sheen of sweat from your upper lip. The air shivers in the heat. Ahead, a large puddle of water looms, inviting, enticing you. You pick up the pace, shoes crunching as you go, but the puddle evaporates with every step you take until it is nothing but parched land.

– When you look out over the water, an inky black expanse, you can barely see where the sky meets the earth. It is so incredibly dark without the moon peeking out. But there, in rambling increments, the clouds glow in prickly charges. Looming. Threatening. You know what is coming.

– The fruit is sweet as it dribbles down your chin and drips onto your shirt. Oranges the size of softballs and mangoes that barely fit in both cupped hands. You are the only cultivator on this sprawling orchard. Harvey’s is closed for the season, but here you are. You’ve picked so many oranges you can barely lift the basket but you don’t care. You’ll struggle with that basket all the way home. You decide to cut through the natural underbrush to shorten your trek. You do not make it to your mother’s front porch.

– the gardenia blooms dot the bushes like white speckles on a dark egg. The air is bursting with the sticky sweet smell. The giggles and squeals of young children float over the fence– heard but not seen. A soccer ball rolls into the street from the house next door. Breaks scream. A woman screams. The air is rancid with gardenias.

– the peacock originated in India, but somehow they made it half way across the world to here. They lounge around like bloated cats on the pristine green lawns of the rich. Old men in pressed suckerseer bathrobes sneak them crusts of french bread and Meow Mix catfood when their wives aren’t looking, so they aren’t afraid of humans. In fact, they’ve stopped foraging altogether and rely on humans for their main source of food. Their round eyes spear you as you walk by. All hundred of them. 

– they tell you that the water used to be clear once, back when they were young. You doubt that. It is all brown now, the color of mud. The water’s edge is getting closer with every passing day and you can’t remember what it looked like a year ago, yet children still play in the growing tide pools.

– the sprinklers hiss as they spray water onto parched grass. It is withered and brown, far beyond the help of the reclaimed water and a touch of love (in the form of fertilizer), and yet the neighbors keep on praying. it is high noon and the water evaporates before it can even hit the roots and you can’t shake the feeling that high noon has lasted more than its allotted hour.

– you tilt your head back and let the sun caress you. the light is like two warm hands on your face. you sigh and relax as it digs its warm fingers into your skin and tears at it until it’s an angry shade of pink. you come back the next day.

– everyone has their own Publix. There’s mine and there’s yours and then there’s the Publix of the elderly. They all have the same three layouts, mind you, but in the old man’s Publix the aisles are narrow and stacked so high that a man in his prime could not reach the top. You walk down the fortifications of relish and ketchup and send silent prayers to heaven that the fragile overstocked shelves don’t tip and collapse on top of you, like a child’s plastic dominoes. You would be forgotten just as easily.

– five steps out the door and you’ve broken out into a sweat. 97 degrees fahrenheit. you adjust your thin shirt. the whole world is too still for such a bright midsummer day. 2 pm and you could hear a pin drop. a bead of sweat caresses your side from armpit to the cotton waistband of your pants. there are no birds singing.

– you huddle in the dark in the corner of the shelter and inhale the scent of death and drenched earth and wonder why they give such a terrible force of nature such benign names

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