I fly to Miami because I am craving sun. I want the heat to warm me from the inside out because winter has been long and I’m ready for things to change without everything changing. I’m ready for a new season, of life or of just weather, I’m not yet sure.
I arrive and it’s dark and the heat is thick and it’s exactly what I’ve been needing. I breeze through the airport, pay for my bus ticket on the #150 bus which will take me to South Beach where my hostel is. I don’t know when I got good at things like finding my way in the dark in new cities but it’s become something I value.
From the moment I arrive I start falling in love. I can’t believe my luck. I work hard and I try my best to help people and I laugh loudly and I bring myself to Miami and it’s what I always dreamed of.
I head out into the night and the street is full of people like me, strangers in a new land, being led by moonlight and lessened inhibitions.
I wake up early the next morning and spend the next few days being consumed by Miami. I fall in love with everything including myself.
I love mornings by the pool before the sun gets too hot. I love afternoons cooling down in the A/C with the older Russian lady who shares the top bunk. We make inside jokes about the people we observe and the amount of luggage they pack and the clothes they go clubbing in.
She cries one afternoon telling me how she hit her breaking point a month earlier with her work as a lawyer in Austria and how she left her kids and husband and fled to Miami for a getaway to get her head straight. She tells me she can’t keep giving so much to everyone all the time and that she’s scared she’ll go back home after this trip and do the same thing.
I listen as she cries and I know exactly what she means and maybe that’s the reason for our meeting. We needed to listen and hear and share with each other. Sometimes it all really is that simple.
I continue falling in love as I explore the shops on Lincoln Road, wandering into art galleries and food markets. I fall hard when I discover the book store tucked behind the cafe, the one with the stone path leading me to the door.
I fall for the cute bookstore guy who gave me recommendations and then his number. The one who led me by my arm straight to the books about crystals and chakras and then told me, “Wait, I know something else you’ll like.”
He reached up high and pulled down an age-old Judy Blume book from the top shelf. “I do like that book,” I tell him. I liked it when I was 12 and growing through my teenage years and I laugh at the fact that he suggested it to me now, in my 30’s. He leads me from room to room, making jokes and selecting books he thinks I’ll like, before asking if I will meet him for drinks the next day.
I smile and say goodbye and what I like the most is the way I walk away these days and allow the sweet moments to be just what they are. Warm memories in hot places.
I make my way to the boardwalk to watch the sunset at the suggestion of the guy in the bookstore, and then I make my way down Alton Road and become enchanted with the tiny sandwich shop across the street from the seediest of nightclubs, a recommendation from a friend met on another trip when I was just starting to own this magical life.
I pull up a stool at the sandwich bar and the guy next to me strikes up a conversation over our turkey clubs with gherkins. He tells me he’s from Toronto but he pronounces it with a hard T. I smile at his white lie and tell him that only tourists pronounce Toronto like that. It’s a comfort to know that men are the same everywhere, obvious and silly.
I fall in love with evening walks on the beach and palm trees at sunset and dogs and rollerbladers on the boardwalk.
I fall hard for Wynwood and the streets that make me unsure and then I turn a corner and 2nd Avenue is there waiting with it’s explosions of color and art. The ground beneath my feet is stenciled in ink and little inspirations, while the walls on each building are dripping with paint and creativity.
I drink gin and tonics at midnight by the pool with a guy from Mexico City whose dream is to rent a Harley and cruise it around South Beach. I like his photos on social media when he does.
On my last day, hot afternoon rains trap me inside an nameless coffee shop with marble table tops and $6 croissants and I love what Miami offers, this first showing of itself to me.
I fall in love with the way Miami makes me feel like I am surrounded by color and life, art and other people’s souls. The lovely balance between locals who are proud of their neighborhoods and tourists desperately wanting to make Miami their own. We’re all fitting in, in the strangest way.
Miami has made me an explorer of new lands, a woman both curious and enamored, open and blooming, sand between her toes.