In the morning, the strange bird in the bunk above me spent an hour listening to unintelligible clips on his phone, before getting up and locking himself in the bathroom. I used the respite to fill out the online immigration form that the airline had sent me for my upcoming trip to Colombia. One section required me to list where I’d be staying, so hardly thinking, I went ahead and booked a week at a hostel in Medellin. Because of the prices of hotels in America, you might be excused for staying at a hostel from time to time, but you know you’ve hit hard times when you book yourself a dorm room in Colombia. Since it would all be going on a credit card from here on out, even six dollars a night could be considered exorbitant.
After getting out of the shower, my flightless bird of a roommate, perched at the windowsill right beside my bed for a breakfast of breadsticks and bottled coffee. It was time to get up and face the day anyway. I’d decided to check out downtown Miami, and had gotten the bus information from one of the guys in the Hawaiian shirts at the front desk. All I had to do was cross the street and wait. The S bus would be along shortly.
There were plenty of seats on the bus, but a corrugated mesh over the windows got in the way of any view as we crossed the Causeway and passed Bayfront Park. The last stop was at a smaller park that was also the hub for the Metrorail. Here homeless people sprawled out around a fountain and a sculpture that appeared to represent slices of fruit. If the city seemed largely deserted, it was because, I found out later, it was Columbus Day. At the time, the effect of so many wide streets and large constructions, with nobody out and about, was anxiety-inducing and slightly hallucinatory, like a return of the pandemic.
At one point I went into a 7-Eleven to get a drink and out of all the many, many choices at the soda fountain, only the Doctor Pepper was working. Everything else came out as a clear stream. I wasn’t sure if this was actually happening, or if it was just me, until a construction worker came in and lodged the same complaint with the guy behind the register. Of all the drinks in the universe, it turned out Doctor Pepper was the only one he didn’t like.
Passing some government buildings, I found myself drawn to Bayside Park by the big Ferris wheel I could see at the end of the street. Here there were a few tourists, dining at the restaurants in the marketplace and shopping in the shops. This was no vacation for me. I was just an apparition passing through, like the homeless folks I discovered around the statue of the founding mother of Miami, with nothing to do and all day long to do it. It was a relief when the bus arrived to take me back over the bridge. The stress of being homeless and jobless in America had nearly blown out my last circuit.
Back at the hostel, I put on my swimsuit and headed to the beach across the street, intending to swim in the ocean. Most of the other people there were from the resorts. A father and son skipped a ball to each other across the surface of the sea. One earnest young Olympic hopeful swam laps in the shallow water. I just bobbed.
There was nothing to do the rest of the day but kill time, so I walked back down to South Beach again. By now dark clouds had begun to form, and when it started to rain it didn’t hold back. I cut over to Washington Avenue and dashed from awning to awning. When I got back to my room, I saw that the guy from Ukraine had moved out and a new girl, who didn’t turn around when I said hello, was taking his place. I grabbed my trunks and headed down to the pool to float in the rain. I was already as wet as could be. What more damage could be done?