I have seen war. Made love in the wilderness, rinsed wounds with absinthe, watched friends torn to pieces before dawn. I have seen the best and worst of man, known women and thrown them away. But I had never seen God before I came to Key West.
The drinks have umbrellas in them, Vern.
This island is four miles long. A speck between a cold ocean and a warm, gentle gulf, like life itself a flash between two darknesses. It would be easy to slip back into one of those bodies if I weren’t tethered to a daiquiri on Duval street.
Limitations make us free.
My bungalow has pastel shades of paint with gingerbread trim, louvered shutters, a covered veranda with wood-lattice screens. None of my wives are on this island, that’s nice.
Trade winds rustle the palms. Jorge pours my second daiquiri. I think of getting a lower back tattoo.
A man can destroy himself gently in Key West.
In Cuba, Italy, Spain the streets run with blood. A man’s past will always return there, like a coconut thrown drunkenly at the waves. But here I am surrounded by cats. They do not give or receive love.
There are many ways a man can burn. Sunburn, rug burn, razor burn. Now I feel sand between my toes. A natural exfoliant.
I have the feet of a child again, Vern.
Key West is my escape and I dive for it like a bull into a matador’s cape or a fat pink shrimp into cocktail sauce.
Do you know what I mean, Vern?
Please water my plants while I am gone. I am never coming back.
The world breaks everyone, and afterward, the tiki bar is open until three.
Loving you has killed me, Vern.