You raise your glass as you toast with your new coworkers. They cheer and welcome you to the team.
You down your drink in one go. The coworker closest to you laughs.
“You Americans sure know how to drink!” he exclaims.
You give him a strained smile and he waves someone over to refill your drink. You lean your elbows against the sticky table and suddenly you’re in that crappy diner in the middle of that retirement town. You can still hear the couple arguing in the back of your head and you wonder if she ever went back to New York.
Someone nudges your shoulder. You put down your drink and you turn to the coworker that reordered your drink.
“I heard you’re from Florida,” he shouts over the loud music.
You nod. “Yeah, but I’ve not been home in a while.”
“Traveler, huh?” he says. “I get that. I kind of want to try and work overseas too.”
“Sort of,” you say. “It’s quite an experience. I’ve learned a lot.”
“I bet,” he says. “Americans are really self-centered, right? They think their country is the entire world.”
You hum. You take a sip of your drink. The alcohol burns the back of your throat and brings tears to your eyes. You haven’t cried in a long time.
“Most of them are,” you reply. “They’re okay once you get to know them.”
“So, is it true that Florida is actually insane?”
“’Florida Man’ stories, huh?”
“Yeah! Florida Man!”
“I’ve met a few of them,” you say. “They’re really something. I’m glad I’ve at least grown half a brain since leaving. Now that I think about it, I wonder how some of my neighbors survived past childhood.”
Your coworker laughs and raises his glass. “I’ll drink to that,” he says. “So where did you go after you left America?”
“I don’t really remember,” you say, the smell of cheap coffee from that diner filling your nose. “It’s a long time ago.” You look into the distance. You feel your throat tighten.
He looks at you for a moment, then he takes a swig from his glass.
“Anyway,” you continue, “it was some seaside town.”
“Why’d you leave there?”
“I was working as a cashier,” you say. “I didn’t make enough to cover rent,” you lie.
“Ah,” he says. He looks at his drink. “Big leap going from a cashier to an assistant manager of our company.”
“I’ve worked before,” you say. “I was going to be promoted to manager in my old firm anyway.”
“But you quit.”
You scoff. You down the rest of your drink. “I felt like it,” you lie. “I felt like change.”
Your new coworker nods. You think back to your old job, and how you were living the American Dream. You think about coming home to your wife, instead of your too small and empty apartment halfway across the world.
You think about how you left everything. You think about the salty air of that retirement town and your wife’s voice over the phone.
You think about how that was the last time you heard her voice. You think about what she said, and you wonder if you did overreact. You think about how you left.
You wonder where she is now. You wonder if she is with that jackass. You touch your ring finger and run your thumb against the phantom of your wedding ring.
You think you never should have left Florida.