After I met a class at the University of Tampa this morning, I was left to my own devices for eight hours until my reading tonight. As I'm sans car on this leg of the trip, I decided to take a walk to the Davis Islands, on the recommendation of my brother Bobby. Across bridges, under overpasses, beside bays, canals, the hospital, dumpsters: there's something both ominous and compelling about walking for some distance in a city where no one walks, or where the only people who walk are homeless, or panhandling. You tick off the smells: saltwater, human pee, jasmine, cigarette, boat exhaust, Super Glue, bandage, liquor. You feel a little suspect as your lift your camera to take in what's left of the world that once was: an earnest Florida, pre-Disney, pre-Hooters, pre-spring training ballparks. You almost forget Bishop's line on the state: "...the poorest postcard of itself." You morph into Evan, the character you wrote fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years ago, who walked relentlessly all over a different part of Florida.
I couldn’t sleep. I felt something simmering in my body, a slow cooking, spreading up through the stem of my torso, then prickling, exploding in my throat like salad oil. I wanted to molt, I wanted to cut away the baggage of my skin. I kicked the wet covers off the bed, threw on some clothes, and left the house. I was going to walk it off. I was walking through developments, through people’s backyards in the dark, over culverts, canals, retention basins. Hours had passed. I passed airport runways with their raucous blue lights, sanitation plants vast as cities, signs fizzing and sparking, arrows pointing in all directions. Two towns over, the boat factory was working overtime, and the junky hot smell of plastic lingered in the atmosphere. A storm threatened from the Everglades, then receded, pushing the humidity even higher. I took off my shirt and roped it around my waist. I decided to walk and walk, possibly to the Keys, possibly to the Card Sound Bridge, until I finally got rid of this feeling.
Hours later I was standing in William’s front yard. I expected the lawn to be overgrown, ruined, bits of scale and dollarweed eating at the turf. But no. It looked even better than before. Moist, lush. I knew it: William had found another Lawnboy. I had lost him for good. I fumbled for some broken shells and started tossing them, one after another, at the glass of the window: ping ping ping ping.
from Davis Islands, with the exception of the first three photos, which were taken on or near the University of Tampa campus:
Read about D.P. Davis, the developer of Davis Islands, and the history of his projects.