The air is thick and warm, and the sand is impossible to look at; so white, it reflects the sun, blinding you. Keep your eyes closed to a slit. Don’t let the whole world inside. Look up into the sky and watch the birds just glide. I don’t know about time, but, man, Florida is on your side.
Florida ain’t gonna judge you. We grow ‘em weird, and we know it. We’re not concerned about your old life, let it go. You’re in Florida now, which means your life has finally started. Or ended. Really, it’s irrelevant.
The humidity will straight murder you. You will question your life choices. You will cower in the shade, but the shade don’t love you. The shade is a mirage. Humidity don’t care nothing about shade.
Your skin will burn, and your feet will become calloused. You will turn into a sea creature, an abandoned seashell. The sun will baste you and prepare you for your final sleep. But don’t worry; Florida don’t care which promises you keep.
He pulls another tissue from the box, crumples it, sends it to the corner of the room where the trashcan lives. He is not using the tissues anymore. He’s just pulling ‘em. Like he’s at a carnival, and if you pull enough tissue, you win a prize. He’s working on his jump shot. He’s killing time dead. He’s got all kinds of thoughts in his used-up head.
The tissue hits the trashcan and BOUNCE. It’s gone, man. That tissue is a memory. It fell into the cracks of the physical world. Right now, a Leprechaun is using that tissue as a pillow. Sure as shooting.
The voices are audible, but the boy does not listen. Out in the living room, it is all crying and casket. It is black cloth and bad coffee. It is too big for the boy to wrap his mind around, so he doesn’t. He pulls another tissue from the box, crumples it, and throws it to oblivion.
The light is in flux, and the room is dark one second, light the next. The passing cars strobe across the walls and explode in the corners. There is life and death in this room. There is steady breathing. There are twitching eyelashes that scrape the soot from off the night.
There is peace in this room. Gentle silence. Softer than the absence of sound. Sit down and soak it in. Let it pour through you. Open yourself, drink it through your skin. Let the calm become you. Or you become the calm.
This is what happiness sounds like. This feels like tranquility and hope. This is a brief and blinking moment of optimism. Grab it. Appreciate it. Feel it in your chest when you close your eyes. Surrender to it because it is truth and beauty. It is art, not made by man. It is honest.
Beneath the wavering boughs, under the robin egg sky, twisted in the sounds of the trickling water, a girl sits, reading. She is covered in shade, and she is smiling softly to herself. There is a breeze that licks the treetops back and forth against the sky. This girl closes her eyes sometimes. She likes to picture the world of words. She is stepping through the closet to Narnia, to France, to history. To the future.
The sun is warm on her skin, and the shadows dance through the high limbs, shifting with the coming night. She hears birdsong and smells the pine trees, sap softening in the summer afternoon.
The trees will watch over her, as they did her grandmother and her mother. As they did countless generations of birds and snakes and bugs and lizards. The tree is a sturdy Mother. No one is going to chop this tree down. No saw. No industrial logging machinery.
When the world explodes, the tree will smile, watching its legacy in the rear view. Sated.