return flight

5 Brothers was closed, so I waited in the queue at the Cuban Coffee Queen shack by the bight for a con leche. The sun hadn't yet broken through the cloud. Two guys sat on one of the benches, sipping away their morning java, yacking. They were tan and young. The conversation went something like this:

"It got really bad with the drugs and the booze. Woke up in a hospital handcuffed to the bed, cop there waiting for me to come 'round."

"Well, Key West can do that to you."

"Oh, no man, this was way before I came to Key West."

My coffee was ready so I grabbed it and popped my headphones back in, happy to let that small slice of conversation exist on its own, without context or explanation.

I walked along the harbour and looked down at the minnows and larger fish waiting for a passer-by to drop in an edible morsel. Folks milled about, loading up fishing boats. Captains and passengers carried rods and sandwiches and cases of beer for their day away from dry land. It got warmer - I could feel the sun pushing through the clouds.

I've not done much of what I meant to do. I didn't go for a single run, and I've written nothing but a few tasting notes. Instead I walked around the island and got lost in the flora and fauna, never not cracking a smile when seeing a rooster or a 6-toed cat or an iguana. I saw a spotted eagle ray while, in spite of myself, spending an enjoyable morning paddle boarding. That was more fun than it had any right to be.

Some success came in managing the dysfunction of family. We had a good Christmas in the warmth. I cooked Christmas dinner and didn't ruin it. My sister and I propped up a fair few bars and righted a fair few wrongs. She pestered a barman about his music choices as we sipped beer after beer. I think she had a little crush on him.

The days all bleed into another, and the last nine or ten bear little discernable difference. I walked and drank coffee, I swam and ate. I marvelled at the tree branches that became roots and muttered annoyance at not getting a single photo of a chicken crossing the road. I never made it back to the Hemingway House, though I passed it a fair few times.

Stories popped up. I took a note or two. It's been a year, that's for sure. Perhaps I needed a little bit of lazy. The most stressful conversation over lunch being what to do for dinner. A holiday. I need to pack. Head back north and to reality. The air's heavy this morning, and the clouds towering. There's no sun. It's time to go.