sunlight in florida
“We should go somewhere this summer,” you say.
The silence pours out between us. Between our paper cups of warm delights- yours coffee and mine apple cider.
And we stare at each other because this- this breakfast is supposed to mean something. And this routine of Sunday mornings smothers our relationship like the cream cheese smothers our bagels. But these bagels are what we have now.
We used to have cheerios and peanut butter on the couch before bed. That brown and grey plaid couch that didn’t stain when I spilled my apple juice. That thick brown and grey plaid that hid all the accidents which feel so much like sins when you are seven years old. And I would make stacks of cheerios three or four tall cemented together with Laura Scudder’s low fat all natural peanut butter. But you were more skilled and you made stacks of six or even eight that loomed high and leaned like that tower in Pisa I never thought existed. You handed me those cereal towers like masterpieces and I smiled deep at your perfection and gobbled it up.
You smiled when I told you I made first cut. You took me to a field to make sure I knew to kick into the corners of the goal and then we walked slowly back to your brown decaying VW Bus and you explained that being a part of the team is the most important part of the game. Then you sent me home with a pat on the back for good luck, thinking I was the daughter you wanted so badly. You only chuckled when I told you my name wasn’t on the list because you knew I was terrified of seeing you frown. And then I told you my secret about the team that I had joined. I told you about how I traded in my soccer ball for a pleated skirt and pom poms. And you frowned because you knew I was the daughter you always knew you would have. But you still drove to every game, no matter how many hours away it was, and watched as I held Holly high above my head to show you how strong I was. And I found your eyes deep in the crowd of onlookers, watching me clap my hands with meaningless enthusiasm, and you smiled back and it made me feel like the daughter I always wanted to be.
So we did go somewhere this summer, trying to escape the bagels and the monotony of Sunday mornings. We found ourselves in Florida where the sun pounds heavy and wet on your shoulders until you succumb to it- and we did. But you wouldn’t let us get lost on the beaches. With your nose buried deep in a map at all times you dragged me to every historical landmark and botanical garden in Sarasota, reading every caption of every object, incident, flower, or insect. I stared at you with intense boredom but you never saw because your head was still in that map even though we were already at our destination. And then I asked you if we could go to the Salvador Dali Museum and you actually looked up and saw me.
“You like Dali?” You asked with eyes of a new kind of discovery.
“As a person? I have never met him, and he is dead now, so I probably never will.” I was rambling because I thought you weren’t listening. “Even so, I don’t think I would. No, not as a person, but as a painter- I love him.”
And it was that simple. The map was shut and within minutes we were surrounded by melting clocks and thick crosses and it felt like we had been there all our lives. Browsing the gift shop, trapped in an isle of Dali cups to set on top of Dali coasters next to Dali books that would only be opened by company that was bored but trying to look cultured and well rounded. And all the crucifixes got me to thinking about religion and I asked if you had a copy of Faust I could borrow.
Again that look of discovery-
“I do, but it’s in German.”
“Okay what? Do you want me to stop at the library when we get home and see if they have it in English. I could do that for you.”
“Can’t I just borrow yours?”
“Yes, but it’s in German.”
“Yes. I know.”
You looked at me- stumped. When did the little cheerio gobbler start reading? When did she learn German?
“Since when do you do this?
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Why do you want to read Faust anyway?”
“Because Goethe is the German Shakespeare. Everyone says so. And I am tired of Shakespeare.”
“Who is this everybody?”
“Your friends are all cheerleaders.”
“So am I.”
“Who else says-“
“- You do.”
There is a pause as you are beginning to realize what is standing right in front of you, drowning in the Floridian heat and the weight of expectation.
“That one shut you up good,” I say, and we both smile, because it did.
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