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Under the Sun
Thu October 21, 2010
They Always Leave, By Jeremy Glazer
Jeremy Glazer is a legislative analyst, a former high school teacher, and a Miami native. On his phone message, he has been known to identify himself as a “future hall-of-famer,” but he says he hasn’t decided yet which hall of fame, or what his achievement will be. He recently finished his first novel and is looking for a publisher.
Glazer crossed our radar as the winner in the Amateur category of Under the Sun’s unpublished writers competition, with his story Home. We can’t get enough of Jeremy’s wry style and his way with words. We’re fortunate to be featuring two more of his stories today.
The music in this piece is from a song called “Trump” by the Miami band Hydroplane. You can check them out at hydroplane.me.
You can contact Jeremy Glazer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They Always Leave
You want to say you and Tanya broke up because she smoked too much. Or because she was on Facebook all night. Or because her apartment was a complete mess. But those are all excuses.
Just like every other relationship you’ve had in Miami, it ended because she moved away.
Every city has its limiting factors. In New York, after college, it was all about apartments. You’d probably be married to Laura today if your sublet in her building, where you met on the elevator, hadn’t run out. You couldn’t talk about moving in with her after two months, so you ended up in Brooklyn, a subway change and forty minutes away, and it was over. And Rita loved you, but not as much as she loved her rent-controlled studio in the East Village. It wasn’t big enough for two.
Here in Miami, though, it’s not a real estate problem. Here, the good ones always leave.
Sure, there are some lifers. They’re the kind of women who take chaperones on first dates, or who live with their parents until they’re married, or who don’t like men without at least a Mercedes or a Lexus.
That’s not you.
But the girl on the bus, she’s different. You can tell. She gets on downtown, a stop after you. She sits in front of you and starts to read Harpers. She’s even got her real boobs.
“You must not be from here,” you say, bravely, motioning to her magazine.
She smiles and shakes her head.
“Three months,” she says, “I guess you’re a native then.”
Now it’s your turn to smile and nod.
And then she asks “what should I know about this place?”
You start talking as the bus takes you all the way up Biscayne Boulevard, the spine of Miami. Her name is Tanya and you explain the neighborhoods to her as you ride through, from slum, to up-and coming, to rich, to slum, back to rich again. You explain the maids, the brown women who get on and off, wearing the black and white uniforms of old southern servitude.
She points at two hipsters, a white couple with messenger bags and matching chunky glasses, as they board.
You say “They aren’t from here either.”
She smiles again and then says, “Have you ever noticed the bus in Miami is like a negative?”
“You mean that it’s bad?” you say.
She says “No. Not that kind of negative. Like the negative of a photograph. Opposite.”
She motions to the front of the bus and says, “See those maids?
They get on in the white neighborhood, coming back from work, I guess. But then those hipsters, they got on in a black neighborhood.”
“I bet they’re gentrifying” you say.
“Yeah,” she says “but the hipsters got on alone. All their neighbors had just loaded on a jitney, which the hipsters are too scared to ride. So on the bus white passenger means black neighborhood, and black passenger means white neighborhood. This is a strange place”
You nod your head, impressed, and say “You’ve already got it all figured out.”
Then, she asks, “What’s it like to be from here?”
“It’s tough,” you say. “All the interesting people are either from somewhere else, going somewhere else, or both.”
“We’ll see about that,” she says. “You seem interesting.”
She squeezes your arm. And you think ‘this is it.’
You start to explore the city together. Tanya takes you to a concert at a record store, improv theater in a strip-mall storefront, a book club at an art gallery. How does she find the things you’ve always been searching for?
And the food. She locates real roast pork at a converted IHOP with its original triangle ski-slope roof. Amazing roadside barbecue in Liberty City. A microbrewery on a scummy canal that shares a parking lot with a hooker hotel. She even finds good Indian food.
Before her, you were always planning your next visit to New York and your friends. Those trips were your gulps of air, and you held your breath in between. Now, this was becoming a place you could take in again. Fresh.
You ask her “How do you find all this?”
She says, “You know, I hear stuff. You have to make the most of where you are. We can make this place interesting if enough of us try, right?”
You start to believe her. And that’s why you miss the warning signs. Even though you knew them quite well.
She stops taking the bus and starts to drive more and more.
She gets sick of window shopping Scarface memorabilia on Washington Avenue. She starts complaining that nothing ever starts on time.
And then, on the South Beach Local, on the way back from a Sunday picnic outside Joe’s takeout, she breaks the news.
“I don’t know how to say this. I feel like such a hypocrite, but I’m leaving.”
“What?” you ask. “Why?”
“My boss wants me in Chicago. They’re scaling down in Miami. It’s just not ripe yet. And to be honest, I jumped at the chance.”
The bus lurches forward, crossing Fifth Street.
“I need to be back in a city with a real Chinatown. A city where the major cultural event of the season is not a dog Halloween parade.”
“But I thought you liked Hallowoof,” you say. “And remember your idea about enough of us making it interesting here?”
“Yeah,” she nods and says, “But you don’t have to stay, though,
But she stops.
You both know four months isn’t long enough for an invitation to go with her.
Even so, you think about it for a minute, looking out the window. You roll it over in your mind and it almost seems possible. You want what she wants too. But your stomach sinks when you imagine going.
Your brother lives down the street from you and if you left, your niece and nephew would forget who you are. Your blood is too thin for the cold. And face it, you couldn’t work in a place where people show up on time and wear wool suits. In a city of overachievers, you’d sink like a stone.
Tanya squeezes your arm.
“I know why you won’t leave,” she says.
“A woman just got on the bus with a dog in a rhinestone sweater. She was dressed all in leopard down to her platforms. And it didn’t even register for you.”
You say, “That’s just Disco Diane. She…”
This time you’re the one who stops.
There’s no need to explain some things. You either understand, or you don’t.
And you finally get it.
Tanya is already gone, but you are here.
And this is where you are going to stay.