I can’t think of a place sultrier than Tampa.
I’m wet all the time from the humidity even when I’m not hot. When it is hot, the heat’s outside and inside my skin, both from me and on me. Dark people turn darker, and the fair red. Everyone stays in the sun, burning, like animals needing to be corralled.
Tampa’s pretty damn boozy. Drink enough and the heat is just like high altitude — your blood absorbs alcohol fast. But here, below sea level, we sop it up because we sweat it out at the same time.
I’ve always wanted to live the sultry, indulgent life of a Jazz Age expat writer, lazing around all day before taking the stage for a banana dance, near-naked, with Josephine Baker. I’d have a drink as soon as I finished my coffee. I wouldn’t put clothes on until 5. Fitzgerald and Hemingway would come over for early morning bourbon — and the morning’s aubade? Zelda and I on the balcony, high on Lithium.
Of course, she lost her mind, Fitzgerald hated himself, and Hemingway took a shotgun to his head, probably while one of his six-toed cats clawed his legs.
Jazz and liquor.
I’ve never left the country. But for me, Florida, even after three years, is like a new country that hasn’t yet found its footing. The rules are confusing if there are any. “Wrong” depends on who you shoot. It’s a vacation and a home. It’s industrial, then, a block away, as luscious as musclewood.
I take it all as yes: I should go ahead and lounge and wear thin clothing and let the highball’s ice cubes rush my face before I open my mouth. I ought to round up a circle of friends and hole up in a hotel room all afternoon. I should party somewhere cheap, and hotter because it’s cheap. We don’t have the Plaza, and Plant Hall no longer serves liquor. I should strip the hotel beds down to the fitted sheet so I can hear the crackling of plastic-covered mattresses and think it’s my own skin. There isn’t a breeze and it’s unlikely it’ll cool down.
There’s got to be a sizzling ember somewhere.
The Hillsborough’s not the Riviera, but I have a flask. I don’t smoke, but I’m happy to huff off of some man’s breath, kissing him after swigging vodka straight from the bottle, my breath like astringent on his tongue.
I don’t give a fuck that it’s not the 1920s, the beginning of a new age. We’re so far from a Wall Street boom, we can’t even see the crash anymore. Decadence is naked and always comes with decay. I’m not a poor artist, or one living well in Paris, and I’m fine with starving and thirsting with the pre-war excess of always wanting another.
People say that in order to desire something, you have to lack something first. I don’t have everything but do have what I crave: warmth, sweat, and a body. I just need someone else to put it on.
Fitzgerald wrote, “It takes two to make an accident.” It only takes one to do something on purpose.
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