In my head, there are two Floridas. One, rarely seen, is vacation-land, a comfortable tropical paradise with a little bit of magic to it. It’s flowers around every corner, armadillos and alligators and the occasional fox, boat rides at dusk across a quiet lagoon, feeling the slight prickle of a little too much sun, but never the burn. It’s the smell of chlorine and french fries, the sound of roller coasters and happy screams but also cicadas and summer music. It’s drinking Corona with lime on a quiet porch when it’s so hot that just sitting still starts a little sweat.
And then there’s the other Florida. It’s the one where nobody knows how to drive in traffic, and the only nearby sit-down restaurants are Perkins and Chilis. It’s the Florida of shopping malls and too much air-conditioning, grocery stores with aisles of junk food but not a single half gallon of organic milk. It’s the Florida where people actually live, the land of dental visits and bug spray.
Only magic Florida and reality Florida seem to have merged.
I forgot to take out the trash last night, so at 5AM I was hauling garbage bags to the curb. But the sounds that early were amazing; not just cicadas, but an entire orchestra of frogs, so loud they could have been percussion instruments. I came back in and put the water on to boil, then let the dog out into the backyard. While I waited for my tea, I followed her out, and sat down to listen. I could see stars in the sky above me — Orion’s belt, to be exact. And while I sat there, wondering how long it had been since I’d seen Orion’s belt and trying to remember if I’d ever seen it in Florida before, a shooting star flew past. It was gone in a heartbeat, so fast that it was almost as if I’d imagined it. But I didn’t. It was real, and just like every shooting star it was magic.
But magic in my very own backyard.