It hits me so quickly: out of nowhere, I can feel the warm, muggy night air hitting me in the face. I’m driving, windows down, through the lonely streets of a Tampa (or thereabouts). I can’t remember if it’s in my burnt orange Cobalt or purpley-brown land yacht of a Cadillac I used to drive; maybe I’m remembering the feeling both, or either one, depending on the instance or my age. But I can so clearly remember cruising down 275 late at night after leaving a closing shift at my retail job, staring out at the dimly lit Tampa skyline; then watching the party-goers as I crossed through Ybor City and over it’s cobblestone streets; then through the dark, silent industrial boonies, only slowing down when I knew a cop was hiding up ahead. Closer to home I’d hug the curves in the road along the Alafia, not slowing down; staring at the moss hanging off the oaks that covered the road, lit only by the warm orange glow of the street lamp. I’d pass the bright white light from the gas station sign – PARS, it read – and I knew it was just a few turns until I was home. I used to be able to see that bright light from my childhood bedroom window, until it was drowned out by more streetlights and houses.
I’m not sure why I miss this, but I do. Maybe it’s the sense of quasi-adulthood I once had: living at home, but working late and driving as I please. Maybe it’s the solitude, a friendly memory so far removed from the packed A train that takes me to my apartment these days. Or perhaps I’m remembering the music, like on a Friday night, when I’d tune into Evolution with Pete Tong on my way home from work. (I definitely miss singing along and belting to my favourite songs!) Either way, it’s a life I once knew, that is no longer. It’s a story set in a place I used to live, and a place I don’t want to live in again.
I thought of it now: all of these memories that bubble up serve as a reminder of a simpler time, and the little escapes I had to enjoy and let loose a bit. I guess it’s time to develop some new ones.
// Tampa, Florida at night – 2013/2014. Photo featured in Open Up, my photo book, available now.