“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
So, what brought you back to me, Moxie? I watched you wandering around the pool, and you looked intent. You found me back here among the palms, in the cool air. The sun was getting too intense for me. And I needed this quiet space…away from the chatter and the waterfall that makes a bit too much water music. Soothing, I know, but I need the quiet. But you know that already, don’t you? This is where you found me on that first day. Now you’re back. Are you here to say goodbye? Did you want a farewell kiss on your forehead? Did you want to brush my grey hair once more with your tanned fingers? A hug? Why did you seek me, Moxie?
You: I want to hear the rest of your story. I want to hear about how it all ends for you and your lovely wife.
Me: Well, come closer. My throat is a little rough today. But the story won’t be really over until we are seated on American Flight #AA4555 tomorrow afternoon. I suppose you could argue that the real end is when we deplane at LaGuardia and wait for the Uber in 41℉ weather. In case you’re curious Moxie, where we sit it’s 76℉. Sorry, my friend, I got sidetracked. I’m an old science teacher remember.
You: The story, Patrick. How does it end beneath these palms? LaGuardia will have to be your problem. I’m only here for you when you are here.
Me: Well, I finally got to sail again. It’s one thing that I can say I truly love. Mariam and I sat at the stern. The winds blew strong. I heard the Captain say that we were doing 8 knots. Then I heard him mumble, ‘that’s fast for this ship.’ We watched a glorious sunset to the west and the Full Moon rising in the east. I was in my element, Moxie. The wind. The sun. The sea.
Let me tell you a story within my story. Do you have to be anywhere? No? Good. Move a little closer. Mariam and I made the required pilgrimage to the Hemingway House. (I stood behind the velvet rope holding the tourists from his writing studio.) There was his typewriter. His desk, books, cot, chairs and open windows. Our guide said that if you stood long enough you might channel Ernest’s spirit. I think he spoke quietly to me. He said something like ‘you’ve got a long way to go, friend, to catch up to me’. I’m sure he meant it with all respect. But, I dunno, Moxie. The man put a shotgun in his mouth when he was sixty-one. Curious. It was in 1961.
You: But that’s not the story is it? It’s kind of depressing.
Me: He was a depressed man, Mox, from a line of depressed family. But you’re right, it’s too sad to dwell on. So the rest of the story…He went abroad to cover the Spanish Civil War. His second wife stayed behind, here at his house in Key West. The guy was quite macho to say the least. Hunting. Fishing. Boxing. Yes, he had a small boxing ring built beside his house. His wife (the 2nd remember) got wind that he was traveling in the company of a certain female correspondent. The man was a lot like me. He fell in love quickly and often. So, his wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, had the boxing ring torn down and put a full size swimming pool in its place. Out of spite.
When he returned from Spain Pauline met him at the front gate. She had a surprise for him. She led him around the corner, through the palms, scattering the polydactyl cats and brought his to the poolside. He took one look.
“Where the hell is my boxing ring? How much did this…this pool cost anyway?
“$20,000, she said.” I’m sure there was not a great deal of love in her eyes.
The famous author reached into his pocket and pulled out a new, shiny penny.
“If you’re going to take $20,000 from me, you might as well take my last red cent. He threw it on the ground and stormed away, most likely to Sloppy Joe’s to drown his sorrows. Pauline had the penny embedded in a patch of cement.
[And here is the penny.]
Me: So that’s my story inside my story. There’s not much else to say. We bar hopped and listened to Wagon Wheel played well by a 3-piece band. We ate great seafood. We swam in our pool. Mariam sipped Chardonnay. We began packing this afternoon. I will pull out my fleece jacket and ready it for New York City.
I guess the time is approaching when we have to say our goodbyes. We may never meet again, Moxie. But we will stay close in each other’s memories. We’ll at least be in the same Time Zone. I will think of you when the summer wind blows. I’ll think of you when I walk barefoot on the beach of Coney Island. I’d send you a message in a bottle, tossing it into the Hudson River when the tide is going out. I would, you know that. But, alas, the ocean currents would take that bottle and deposit it on a lonely stretch of the Irish Coast. Whoever would read it would have no idea of who you are or who I am.
Maybe that’s all for the best.
If I see you standing in the moonlight tonight in the middle of Fleming Street. I may walk out and give your damp curls a brief innocent kiss. Maybe.
But maybe it’s all for the best if I didn’t. I will always remember how you were eager to hear my stories.
It’s about stories…
A few extra photographs for you.
[An olive oil jug. The rectangular tiled piece was once a men’s urinal. Now it’s a drinking trough for Hemingway’s cats.]
[A note to my readers: I used yet another quote of Bob Dylan for the title. All photos are mine.]