The Grind of the mile
The Blistering sun
The Burning of day
The terror of night
The Gulf sun slants idly towards the oceans edge. Its golden midday tone is gone, displaced by a hazy orange hue that slinks lazily across the gulf.
A salty breeze whispers through the spokes of Drew’s bike and drapes around him as he pedals through the sloping suburbs of Seminole.
By now, Drew has grinded out forty-three miles, and is swathed in summer sweat.
Summer and not summer are the only seasons here, but the heat is tolerable while cycling because the shore breeze offsets the beating sun. At 18 miles per hour, his pace is relaxed, it lets his mind wade through the events of the past year. Mostly, his thoughts drift back to Texas.
The roads are safe now. The evening rush has ended and the beach is rarely frequented on a Tuesday night. Even still, Drew makes sure to carefully cross the tumultuous Park Boulevard, because you never know which car is going to hit you.
The black wheels of the Denali GMC make their way into the time beaten lane. Park Boulevard is river of coquina and sandstone thats hemmed by a languid alfalfa grass. The grass grows higher along the barrens before the old overpass, grabbing at the old steel and concrete steel erection.
Although its nothing extraordinary, The road is dotted with the embellished suburban sub divisions that sprung up during the housing boom a few years ago. Their roofs are slung with Spanish terra cotta tiles and were built like the hearty Havana houses that popped up in the sixties. Despite their luster most of them are derelict. The housing crash devalued most things in Seminole, especially the houses.
Like sand spurs, these homes grew on fallow ground, and when the rains didn’t come they died.
As Drew approaches the old overpass he starts speeding faster. Without enough momentum he won’t be able to ascend the drawbridge before him. Though its not that steep it would be hell to have to fight it up slowly in fifth gear, and I he can’t downshift because his derailleur is broken.
His mind goes back to the sight of going over the handle bars, unto the concrete, the asphalt, the blood pouring out of his side. But that was over, and it wasn’t getting him over this bridge.
As his legs fight the grade he whizzes past an idly driving sedan.
A new coat of sea foam green paint hides the drawbridge’s rusty rivets. It’s older than any of the other drawbridges.
Drew had seen the other catwalks that dotted the beach crumble, and new ones built in their place. Some were spectacular, like the Bellaire bridge, a tremendous overpass that was so large any ship might pass beneath it. Drew liked crossing that bridge at sunset because at the top he could see miles away into the endless blue, the thin strand of land that he called home and how it looked like the hungry gulf would swallow it.
But the one bridge Drew didn’t mind was this one, It had been built decades before all of them. Although it needed a few repairs each year it was nothing like the draw bridges on Tierra Verde or Treasure Island. No, this bridge was old , it was honest. Most of all, Drew liked it because when he crossed it he knew he was home.
The climb is always intense. But Drew has climbed it many times. His legs fight with speed to maintain his tempo. After A few cars pass him he’s at the plateau.
He pauses a minute to look between the thin steel grating separating him from a forty foot fall. Beneath him is the muddy inter-coastal, the water way which divides the Beaches from the mainland.
This delta is not like the islands it shelters, nor does it resemble the concrete desert it stems from. It’s nothing like the inter-coastal’s of Jax or Daytona. Here is a shore woven with the tangled roots of red and black mangroves. These old men of the estuary slink forever across this briny strand, trapping unweary fishing skiffs that navigate the shallows at low tide. More importantly, the the salty fingers of these mangroves grasp the fragile shore, which would otherwise slip away into the sea.
But for most this inlet is ignored, and only it only serves to bar them from the ocean. These trees are seldom recalled in the memory of beach-goers. The real purpose of the mangroves, unknown to many, is to divide the fifty thousand dollar homes of Seminole from the fifty million dollar estates of Indian shores.
Over the bridge Drew sees the ocean spread before him, and the tiny mile long town thats been his only home.
Like the intercostal, The beach too is not at all like city of seminole, or Largo, or even Clearwater. It’s Lined by ethereal australian pines, and dotted with twisting sea grapes whose green and amber leaves coat the dunes. The slim sandy strand could be mistaken for a low lying olympus. Because the soft ocean tide streams gently against the shore. This turquoise water is clean and clear in every season, and has a ghostly emerald tone when it rains. Moreover, the pillared residences, with all of their high rising arches, tall windows, and architechtual glory, might give you the impression that your in a better place. But for all its luster Indian is really just another playground, albeit an expensive playground, for those that have.
As Drew’s bike snakes down the winding lane that meets the north bound intersection he watches The palms that line the streets sag slowly in the evening draft. Glinting shards of the sunset pierce through the hotel windows and condo awnings that are scattered across the shore and these rays splash against his sun shades.
The road curves and he merges into the bike lane. This black and red line that the city built with the proceeds from the “penny for Pinellas” fund, as was the towering town hall that had been finished only a few months before Drew had returned. Although its just a small bracket, less than two yards wide, it’s the safest road in the entire county. It’s three miles long, and much much less dangerous than the Pinellas trail because it’s safe to ride on at night.
As Drew rides he passes a few of the old Florida homes on the oceanside, then the thrift shops and ice cream parlors...then mauhaufers, the last beach rummy bar........and then finally the Coffee shop, where the public crossing divides street and sand.
The muted bass riff of “Bring on
the Night” pounds into Drew’s ears. He sets his cycle on the side of the road and walks towards the red bricked crossing. Over the asphalt, he crosses the street unto an old wooden walkway which was nearly swallowed by the gulf when hurricane opal swept over this tiny island. No one has ever bothered to dig it out, so its purpose isn’t obvious to anyone who has lived here less than seventeen years.
Drew feels the white sand crunch beneath his trainers and his gaze fixes past the swaying sea oats and unto the azure ocean.
He removes his visor and brushes his blond sweat soaked hair behind him.
There, beyond the west, lies the sinking sun. lingering at the edge of the sea, the reddish globe sets the horizon afire, tinting it with burning oranges and brash golds.
Above the falling star is the night sky. Its an embroidery of color: soft greens, and melancholy blues are woven together by thin white stratus clouds that stretch across the ether.
“I couldn’t Stand it.”, Sting sings. “I couldn’t Stand,
another hour, of daylight. I Couldn’t stand another hour,
Fighting back Warm salty tears, he turns
around and walks back.
The sound of screaming brakes doesn’t reach him.