North of the airport on Dixie Highway and over the 17th St Drawbridge, heading east over the Intercoastal to the land’s edge of my beloved country, there is a small place west of the main strip in Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida.
Just beyond the Marriott’s Beach Place Towers and the upper-crust lifestyle of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, passed the curb side restaurants where well-dressed people enjoy fine dining, consuming appetizers, such as beef carpaccio, or oysters on the half-shell with vinaigrette; I found myself in my rented vehicle heading past Sebastian and Alhambra on North Atlantic Boulevard and turning left onto Seville Street.
The mid-block hotel and apartments, tucked quietly between North Atlantic and Birch, looked as though age had taken its presence. Those that burrow in its rooms are the seasoned and traveled drunks of our civilization. And while some only visit, others live week to week in a small flop house known as The Seville. Atop the yellow and white building is a green sign, written in capital letters, which says “HOTEL.” At its face was the name, “Seville,” written in scripted lettering above the tiny office, which is often unmanned by any personnel.
It took some time, but eventually, I was greeted by an incredibly short woman with short hair and yellowed, crooked teeth. She spoke with a heavy French accent and advised me to the rules of the establishment. She reminded me there are no cleaning services on Sundays. She also advised me that the towels, sheets, pillows, pillowcases and comforters are to remain in the room. Otherwise I would be charged for any missing items. There are no phones in the rooms, but there is a television. There is no such thing as room service or hotel concierge, but then again, I was not here for a vacation.
Alone in my room, I placed my things on what was called a king-sized bed, but was more accurately, two full-sized beds (including the headboards) placed together with a gap running down the center. I could smell the mold hidden behind the bleach from the previous cleaning of the pink-tiled bathroom. I could hear the mechanical winding sound from the small air-conditioner, which was placed through the wall above the bed, and sounded like vibrating metal, cycling in a constant rotation and surging as if the machine were on its way to the graveyard. I could hear the flushing water hissing from the continuously running toilet; and in an otherwise extremely bright room with yellow-painted, crackled walls, white ceiling, and an almost rubbery impersonation of a hardwood floor, I prepared myself for the chores at hand.
Outside the door of a room downstairs, a tall overly-tanned gentleman wept underneath the sunshine through the sounds of his guitar strings and swiveled into the clear glass bottle of its nearly gone scotch. His blue eyes watered with red veins branching throughout the whites that surrounded them. His balding head was browned from drunken hours beneath the sun and the gray unshaven stubble on his chin matched the close-kept hair at the sides of his head.
Once wealthy and worldly, his poetic alcoholism sunk him into his one bedroom flat, complete with a bathroom, a small but empty refrigerator, a white tiled floor, a microwave, a paper cup, and perhaps the clothes he wore were the same as the ones after his release from the county lockup.
Facing east from the curbside of my spot, fabulous bodies gathered and glistened as they sunned themselves along the beach across the avenue. Tourists roamed the sands, searching for memories depicted with seashells or small bits of broken coral. To the south were the resorts, and to the north was another motel I recalled from a time when I first found love. It was then that I realized I too came here in some form of unscheduled poetic return. During the hours of early daylight, I walked along the shoreline, eager to soak my thoughts in the blue waters and feel the warmth of our southern sun. I ate without company and penned my thoughts. I found my resilience, and after, I drove north to Pompano Beach where my Mother resides with her fellow elderly in assisted living.
Through the front doors of my Mother’s residence known as Grand Court Village, I signed my name in the visitors log. Next, I spoke with the administration as well as the nurses who assured me my Mother is getting the proper care, and as I walked down the long corridor towards room 76, I thought about the unfairness of age, passing the quietly sat residents, and acknowledging each of them as they watched me move through the hallway.
Inside room 76 is the curled spine of my Mother. She slumps now. Her memory is off and her patience is that of an unhappy child. Her eyes are glazed from pain management and each pill she swallows, though slightly numbing, further alters her perception of life and clear thought.
This Monday was her birthday….
Though limited, we were able to leave the premises. We were able to whittle down her list of needs and shopped for the little things like a soap dish and a mirror for her nightstand. She was able to eat a meal away from her table, which is table #10, where she sits with two others. One is a deaf woman and the other is a woman stricken with Alzheimer’s—so I assume their conversations are limited, at best. However, my mother is well liked and well known throughout the community of 105 patients. She speaks well of most, but not all.
Like each meal, her meds are scheduled. There are two cats, which keep the residents company while sitting outside. And indoors, there are three bird cages. Facing the cages and to the left, several blue and white parakeets chirp and fly throughout their white-barred palace. In the middle is a green cage with an African Gray parrot. The parrot is kind and he has an extensive vocabulary. To the right of this, several tiny brown finches dance inside a large cage to, I assume, add life to an environment where most are concerned with death.
After I finished the visits with my Mother, I returned to my temporary vehicle and headed south on Dixie, east on Oakland, and back to North Atlantic, passing such places as The Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort and The Westin Resort and Spa. Then I passed Granada Street, and turned right onto Seville to return to my small room. Alone again, I could hear the drunk in his room below mine. He was still drinking and continuing to weep his poetic tragedy through the sound of his guitar strings.
At night, in the darker unlit section of beach, vagrant men sleep beneath the stars not far from the fancy lighted area where the fortunate play and dance until sunrise. This is where both halves live. This is where the rich and poor intermingle at the border of each other’s existence, and somewhere in between is me—a poet. Somewhere in between, I saw myself in the reflections of the moon above the Atlantic Ocean. I heard the howling laughter of families as I walked southbound down Atlantic passed the gifted resorts, and on my return, I saw the distinction between them and the less-fortunate that slept on the beach.
After several days of heading to and from, I woke before sunrise this morning, looking out at the dawn above Mother Earth and headed back to the airport where my temporary vehicle lives. Shortly after, I boarded a plane …. and here I am, home again.
My trip was not without benefit. I saw my Mother, which helped her—even if only for a short while.
I saw the beauty of palm trees and felt my toes dig into the sand.
I was graced to feel the sun warm and bronze my flesh; I was fortunate to have conversations with different people from different parts of the world, and I am blessed to return to here …. where I am now…..with you…
There but for the grace of God; I am home
…. and that too is poetic to me