It's Morning in Florida

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My name is Trevor Jones, and I consider myself a nice man. I'm forty and an artist. For a long while most of my work collected dust in an old storage in Manhattan; until recently a hotel chain licensed some of my paintings, and guaranteed an immediate access to financial stability, which allowed me to freely plan out the future of my family.

A diverse scenery from New York I think as I enjoy the contrast of the green vegetation against the blue sea forging the shorelines of the bay, sliced in three points by long bridges floating motionless above water, carrying the early morning traffic.

I am staying at the Marriott inside the Tampa International Airport for a sojourn supposed to revitalize a life in strong need of nurturing.

Concerned about being late for a meeting with the realtor, I don't touch the inviting breakfast buffet. However, I smile at the thought of my wife, who would never leave such feast.

A yellow-suited Mrs. Stapleton greets me, "Good morning, Mr. Jones. Sorry I am late, but the traffic is horrible. So, I gather that you want to move to Tampa; isn't it a gorgeous place? And this time of the year is simply heavenly. We have a few homes to see today. Then, after we are done, we can go back to my office. Does it sound like a plan?"

I try to answer, but she keeps on firing words.

"Your e-mail tells me that you are relocating from New York; looking for a spacious house with a large room to use as workshop; and that it would be you and your wife, who I gather is not here today?" she continues reading off her notes, without even glancing at me once.

"Well yes! The workshop is very important for my unpredictable inspirational moods. But, the overall space distribution and location remain our main priority. As for my wife, she is a lawyer, and was hesitant to take the time off in the middle of an important litigation. But, we will decide together, after I see the properties."

The first house we visit is located in South Tampa.

"There are plenty of nice restaurants in this area, and the school district is the best," she tells me.

Well, I think that on both accounts I'd still prefer New York; but the vegetation is captivating.

"Do you have kids?" she asks, handing some brochures and various papers.

As I am about to open my mouth to reiterate that it's only my wife and me, she cuts me off.

"Florida is one of the fastest growing economies in America; you'll be making a great investment here."

Out of courtesy, I finish the tour of the houses, to then kindly decline going back to her office.

I enter the car, and I toss the papers she gave me on the floor at once.

"Precious? She couldn't close her mouth, not even for a second. I almost got a headache. Anyway, the houses seemed well built, but lacking soul. And I think I need a much larger space for my workshop. Besides, if we move to Florida, we might as well live on the beach. Don't you think?" I ask the empty seat, while driving away. "Enough with that for today. Let's take the rest of the day off, relax, and wander around. I'm hungry, we didn't have breakfast this morning, and I know what you want," I keep on talking, as I enter an IHOP's parking lot.

I order two pancakes for my wife, and one for me. She is thin, but when it comes to pancakes, without ever losing her composure, her eyes betray a certain voracity, and she gets protective of her plate. I love looking at her when she eats with such joy, pouring more syrup and asking for more berries. In those moments she becomes my own food to protect.

All these thoughts cross my mind when the pancakes arrive with a colorful mixture of berries circling two big strawberries over a triple layer of syrup.

Next to my table, on the right, two parents in their late twenties feed three children in tall chairs. They are splendid in their innocence and pleasant screeches, in a family collage of syrup and crayons. The mother takes care of two, without losing the opportunity to smile at her husband, who holds one fork feeding the youngest, keeping a firm, but loving glance all along. On my left, sitting at a corner table by the window, an older man is eating alone, slowly cutting the same omelet over and over, almost as if he were trying to prolong his meal to fill another day.

I take a picture of him with my phone, without letting him know, because I don't want to lose his expression. Then, I take one of the family, this time asking permission to the mother.

I like to take photos of situations that inspire me, with the idea of transferring them into my art. Am I going to be a happy father, or a lonesome geriatric patient with a bitter taste for an existence lived in fear and regrets?

I keep on looking at the family and at the old man, while my wife's pancakes are sitting untouched across from me.

Angelina, a sixty-something year old waitress comes by and asks me, "Is your wife coming?"

"No." I say. "She just phoned me not to wait for her. Could you be kind enough to wrap them to go? She loves pancakes so much, and I don't want all this food to go wasted."

Angelina returns to my table, holding the check and a doggy bag to go. Her skin is marked by long hours of sunbathing, and the heavy makeup with long fake nails can't hide the wrinkles around the eyes matching the ones on her hands, while white hair found the way in the middle of a cheap hazel tinge. Right on her forearm, a green faded old tattoo, from a time when inking the skin was not a trend, betrays a life of struggles and broken dreams. At least, this is how I see it in my mind. One thing I notice though, she wears a wedding band, and a small diamond engagement ring next to it. They are firm on her finger, and without any actual proof, my gut feeling tells me that she has a happy marriage, which resisted years of difficulties and external challenges.

"You are all set honey. No rush. Take your time. Can I get you anything else? Some water?"

I shake my head, and ask her if I can take a picture of her. Her face lights up. Flattered and surprised she poses for a couple of takes, before heading back to the kitchen.

I am walking out the restaurant, and I notice a movie theater in the same plaza. Since I don't have much else to do, I turn to the automated ticket machine, and swipe my credit card. Normally my wife would be next to me, waiting for the tickets, gently, but firmly, pushing me to the side to get them.

Precious avoids everything that might slightly give away the plot, and refuses to watch the trailers. For this reason, we decided that I enter the theatre first to secure good seats, while she buys the popcorn.

I find her adorable when she walks in, cutting through the crowd, searching for me. We always find each other, every time. But now, I sit alone with popcorn on my lap and a drink in the cup-holder.

A couple of over-weight film fans sits a few rows below. They both wear some sort of Harry Potter's celebration T-shirts, and share a tray loaded with nachos, cheese, candies, and all the junk food a movie theatre can offer. They look happy. They look very happy. Instinctively I reach down to the big empty seat next to me, searching for her hand to hold, like we do when not too busy stealing popcorn from each other. I feel sad, very sad. I promise to myself that I will never allow distance again between Precious and me.

The film slowly takes over my thoughts. Although, from time to time, I reach out to my side, talking very low, as if she were sitting next to me, wearing 3-D glasses, and filling my world; but she is miles away, caught up with other matters.

I am afraid that I letmovies into our marriage a little too often, expecting fantasies to compensate for those interests we don't have in common. I realize now thatmarriage is about building a large playground, where different games can beplayed apart or together, but always within the park limits, on sight.

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