There’s No Going Back to Florida

Even though you’ve been a drinker since leaving Florida, you can’t say you remember going to an open-air bar. It’s refreshing. At least, it’s something other than small, cramped spaces lining the cobblestone streets.

Maybe you like it here more. You can do without the polluted air, though.

Your date sits across from you, chewing on the sweet potato fries she insisted on ordering. Something about having snacks while you drink.

“So, where do you work?”

“Oh, just a few districts over,” you reply. “Some stupid accounting job.”

She laughs. You take a big gulp of your gin.

“Not a fan of the nine to five, huh?”

“Better than being on my feet for twelve hours.”

“Manager position has its perks, I suppose.”

She seems amused, though you’re not sure why. She waves a waiter over and asks for a refill of her margarita. The waiter looks at you, you murmur that you’d like a double rum and coke.

“Oh, mixing alcohol already?”

“Can’t get me drunk that easily.”

She reaches for another fry. You drink your gin. It burns your throat. You hate it. You drink more of it.

The waiter comes back with your drinks. Before he can even take your empty glass, you are already sipping on your rum.

“You know, I thought you’d be younger.”

You put down your drink. “What do you mean?”

“You know… On your profile. It says you’re…”

“Oh. No, I am… I am that old. It’s just…”

You think about Florida. You think about that woman. You think about what life would be like if you went back. You close your eyes.

“I didn’t lie about my age. I’m just tired.”

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.”

“No, it’s fine. People say I act older than I actually am.”

“Maturity is nice. I like that.”

She’s a nice girl. She’s got small hands and a wide smile. Maybe she’s a little heavy-handed on the makeup, but it’s something you think you can overlook.

She reminds you of her.

Maybe she’s got secrets of her own.

“Sorry, we’ve been talking about me this entire time. Where do you work? What do you do?”

“Oh, I’m an editor.”

She tells you about her publishing firm. It’s just her, her uncle, her uncle’s partner, and some other friends they know. It’s a small business, she says, but it’s something she cherishes since it’s a family thing.

“That’s nice,” you say. “Must be nice being so close with your family.”

“Yeah. They can be pricks sometimes but my uncle’s really nice. What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Your family. Or… I mean, do you have one?”

“Oh.”

You touch your ring finger. You move to speak, then you stop yourself.

“I’m… I’m divorced.”

“Oh. I… Your profile…”

“Yeah. Um. I’m sorry, I didn’t say. It happened a while ago, actually, so… I thought… You know, it was before I came here, and that was a long time ago. That’s why I thought…”

“That’s okay. That’s fine. Well, where did you come from, then?”

You clench your teeth. You take a drink.

“Nowhere, really.”

She laughs again. It doesn’t feel the same as the laughs before.

“You can’t come from nowhere. We all come from somewhere.”

“I don’t know. I’ve been around.”

“Your home, I mean. Where did you grow up?”

The humid air hits you. Not the air around you now, but the heavy Florida air.

“America.”

She puts her elbows on the table and leans on them. She puts another sweet potato fry in her mouth.

“Which part of America?”

You finish your drink. Your throat hurts.

“Is it really that important? I’d like to talk about something else if that’s okay.”

She looks up for a second, staring just above your head, then she shakes her head.

“No. You’re avoiding something. You left America because of the divorce, right?”

“I would like to talk about something else.”

“You need to stop running away from things.”

She really reminds you of her. Maybe her secrets are the same.

“I don’t think I should take life advice from someone who hasn’t had everything taken away from her yet.”

She leans back, makes a big show of taking a drink, and smiles.

“Maybe not, but I know a thing or two about a thing or two. You still think about her, don’t you?”

You have nothing to say. You touch your ring finger again.

“Then you’re not over her yet. Why haven’t you given her a call?”

“Don’t know her number,” you lie.

She sighs. “And what caused this entire thing?”

The empty box sitting at the bottom of the trash can haunts your dreams.

“Birth control,” you find yourself saying, even though you just met this girl.

“Let me guess, you guys use protection, so she shouldn’t have needed birth control, to begin with?”

“I’ve had a vasectomy.”

She sucks air through her teeth.

“Nasty business, that. Did you ask her what happened?”

You’re not sure. “She wouldn’t say.”

“Smells like guilt to me. Oh, how intriguing. She didn’t make an effort to try and win you back?”

“Called me up at work a few days after I left, but it wasn’t anything special.”

“Did you talk?”

“Had work.”

She gives you a sad smile. “You really don’t want to face it, huh?”

How could she cheat on you? You just don’t understand. You eat a fry, and another, and then you’ve finished the whole platter.

No. It’s better this way, you think.

“It’s better this way,” you say. “It is. She’s clearly moved on from me if she thinks what she did was fine, and it was my trust that was in question.”

She taps her chin, then she says, “Have you ever considered that she used birth control to control her period? It’s not just to prevent pregnancy, you know.”

“I know that,” you snap. “But if that were the case, wouldn’t she tell me that? What’s with all the secrecy and accusations of not trusting her?”

“Good point.” She taps on her drink. “What are you going to do now?”

“What I’ve been doing all this time.”

“Running away?”

“Moving on.”

There’s no going back to Florida.

Categories: fiction, short stories

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