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Thursday, 31 August 2006

Key West: A Solo Voyage - Page 3

Written by Michelle McAlister
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At the end of a long relationship, I responded in my usual manner by planning a Great Escape. I hastily purchased a single airline ticket from a dubious internet site that guaranteed that, if I was willing to get myself to the airport for a 3 a.m. departure, I would reach distant, exotic Key West with only two insignificant stops in Dallas and Minneapolis.

 

During my stay, I acquired a few notable friends. In my room lived a pale, lethargic lizard that occasionally scurried out from under my bed to greet me when I returned from my outings. I liked knowing he was there, that I wasn’t completely alone, and I accepted that he was the original tenant and I, the renter.

On Key West, I also acquired a special relationship with a local stray cat, whose jaw had been dislocated from a passing car. His mouth cocked to one side lent a look of subtle insanity to his gentle disposition. Every morning I brought him food, and although his tongue poured involuntarily and helplessly out of his mouth and he smelled near death, I have never felt so much empathy or love for another creature. He was my project, my undeniable duty for the length of my stay on Key West.

At night, I laid on my bed listening to the air conditioner blow. Because the heat was so stifling, I left the air conditioner perpetually on. I found myself constantly switching it from medium to high and back to medium, and so on. I couldn’t fathom that it didn’t exhaust itself from putting out the same amount of energy, day after day. In my own life I too was exhausted. Having come so far to Key West to re-find myself, I couldn’t help but look at the air conditioner and laugh at how hard we try just to be – including the air conditioner.

As my solitary vacation came to an end, I reflected on the meaning of a quote by Vincent Van Gogh: “One may have a blazing hearth in one's soul and yet no one ever comes to sit by it. Passersby see only a wisp of smoke rising from the chimney and continue on their way.”

As I lay on my back watching the air conditioner blow, I thought about the pale lizard under my bed, the dying cat on Olivia Street, the graves atop Key West, and Butch in his doorway that stormy night. I realized that the entire length of my vacation was spent reflecting on others’ lives.  More importantly, I realized the extraordinary impact they had left on me because I had stopped to sit by their blazing hearths.

 

©Michelle McAlister

 

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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