As a child, I escaped to my grandmother’s home in the Northern Florida woods whenever things weren’t going well at home. It was a place of peace, of safety, where Spanish moss hung like Christmas tree tinsel and the ground smelled like decay. I loved the anoles, and the skinks, and the frogs and toads, whom to this day, I imagine are friends.
Every molecule of the queer, progressive, activist, punk in me hates Florida. But it is the place that, to this day, I run when I am afraid, alone, or in desperation. My grandmother died in 1994, and although I still have family members in those woods, I leave them to the other wild animals.
For the past twelve years, my Floridian refuge has been with my friend, whom I should rightfully call family, in North Miami Beach. She’s not only the person to whom I run; she’s also the person to whom I tell all my secrets, even those that most facilitate my self-loathing.
I’ve visited her twice a year, for the past twelve years. The years fade together in my memory, and in hers.
Including the layover, it takes me six to nine hours to fly to Miami. I endure these flights as a necessary evil. They serve my transportation needs in annoying and tedious ways, and so I tolerate them. Flying is a chore for me. I’ve been doing it longer than I can remember, and I first flew to Florida by myself when I was eight, with my brother in my care.
One year, while sitting in my aisle seat, anxiously hoping that the window seat beside me would turn out to be unsold, I watched a young man board the plane. He was about twenty, but I don’t really remember what he looked like. What I remember was that the joy, wonder, and excitement radiated off of him, as he eagerly told the flight attendant that he had never before been on a plane. It was contagious. I spent the entire flight imagining his wonder and feeling grateful that, unknowingly, he’d shared it with me.
I’m a cynical person, and I rarely wonder at things. But I am enamored with the magic that lifts so much steel off of the ground. And while I anxiously await the person who will take up too much of my legroom and probably try to make small talk, I try to remember that young man, and his wonder. It was a good flight, and a good day.