Segment 21: When a Third World Came West

We made our way into Miami jumping off 395 east and then seeing the coast blocked by a heavy metal guard rail but then obscured by big orange birds of paradises, blue and purple bromeliads, and dark pink and red bougainvillea trellises as we passed the exit for the light for Ocean Boulevard and then to the north state road, A1A.  He wanted to go to a youth hostel which wasn’t far away from here so we stopped for directions once at a gas station out of our league full of new BMW’s and Mercedes and we stopped behind some men outside of their cars in dress pants and shirts, their hair rumpled but groomed.  They look towards me while Sam ran inside to steal a map or to get the hang of where to go next. 

            On our way up to Washington Avenue we passed motels where from the entrances I saw skinny girls with dark long hair and short loud colored dresses come out the tiled doorways with big heels and I looked down at what I was wearing.  I’d still had on the blue sundress that I’d cleaned house with, moved the bedding and the furniture on the truck with, and I’d only taken it off once while I was showering and next, to sleep in a t-shirt of Sam's that he’d kept in his duffle bag at the motel in Charleston.  I’d only brought two pairs of underwear that I could reach from the backseat.  We’d packed all our furniture into Kim’s purple storage unit that she’d had outside her house in the backyard and we took the rest of our bags and suitcases and packed as much as we could into the car.  Sam had somehow gotten sunglasses all of a sudden even though I knew he didn’t have any money and so I’d guessed he’d picked them up at the gas station from the attendant.  I didn’t like them.  They looked like something someone would wear in the military and he started to remind me of the way someone would look who’d recently signed up for the marines.  He usually had a way with people and words and told me at one point up at school that Spanish was the seventh language he was trying to learn so by now he was trying to blend in with the locals since he’d stuck out too much up at Elon.  He said we had to turn WXDJ 95.7 up loud because next to us were two Spanish guys with their windows all the way down and their radios way up high on that channel, so Sam fingered with the mixer dial.  It made me feel better to know he knew what to do since straight ahead in front of me I was staring at run down abandoned strip malls with the sign in one falling off and shards of broken glass on the inside from someone trying to get in.  I tried not to look harder out my window to please Sam but also because the traffic on my right was mostly more beat-up Pintos with more music and drivers trying to talk up above it so that they could hear each other. 

            When we skipped the youth hostel for a motel on Washington Avenue I put my bags down on the thin grey bedspread and gathered a tank top and bottom, going into the shower to breath for a second and to change.  I couldn’t get away from this all feeling like more fun than I’d ever had.  I’d followed guys around campus whom I’d had crushes on and thought about them endlessly until I thought they’d come up to me one day demanding that I let any thoughts of them go from my head.  But Sam was the first obsessive, stubborn, and adventurous person like me too, only not emotional.  He was vast and empty and cold and dark and Miami was a great backdrop for which to see him undress out of his uptightness into some flavor.  I changed out of my clothes put my bathing top and bottoms on and walked out barefoot onto the tile.  Sam was waiting out in the hall already smoking a cigarette even though he wasn’t supposed to and holding the key asking me what kind of bathing suit I was wearing because I was using my white tank for the top.  I let it go and walked down the stairs ahead of him barefoot and out the unwashed glass doors towards the pool where no one else was.  By this time it was nearly almost dark and the big lights from the more expensive hotels lit up the plants on the stone wall that divided them from ours.  I walked into the pool and dunked my head under before I could think twice and came up to the surface thinking we didn’t bring towels but it was so hot we didn’t need to and then I watched Sam do a can opener into the water from the deep-end. 

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