In Florida, there is still a laundromat. The shining wheels of cars whizzing by it mimic the steely spinning of the machines. Next door you can buy custard, and in the back you can hop over the railroad tracks to Sarah’s house.
In my absence, a new neighborhood has come under construction. The entrance is crowned by a tree as beautiful as a fast woman – waving her hair wildly in the wind while dancing a vulgar dance, spreading her arachnoid fingers to the blue, blue sky. Inside, masses of Stepford houses attempt to emulate the austere solidity of Washington DC. Just when you think there will be a surprising shift into romanticism, into the intangible, long-craved poetry, it reveals itself as a disappointment. Disappointing in its sameness – a place where you don’t want to pull up in the driveway simply because there’s nothing to do at home or anywhere else.
Still, things don’t change at all. I like to see the same old, tropical tenures of my adolescence: the driver of the beat-up Chevy with a fat cigarette in his mouth, the Spanish-style houses painted in Caribbean colors in the flood zone. In the flood zone, ivy and Spanish moss crawls on those houses, Spanish moss as satisfying to hold as a handful of a girl’s hair. Hurricane water makes marshes of the decrepit houses’ green front lawns, the symbol of America. In the flood zone, I swooned at fourteen when my father’s car intersected the curly-haired boy’s VW in the church parking lot. My own graduation mass took place at that church, at the same sort of the occasion where, years before, I had served as an acolyte. A place both slightly sweet and slightly dry, like the oranges advertised.
I think, maybe, nostalgia is a form of schizophrenia. If and when I get to Heaven, I’d like to replay my life from top to bottom on a VCR, pausing at this scene: sitting shotgun next to my mother, driving down the highway, with shafts of afternoon turning on and off by the light-switch of tree silhouettes, Charles Trenet playing in the car.