The most palpable feeling at Hemingway's house in Key West is the drowsiness of the late afternoon caused by the thickness of the air and the tropical heat that can turn your clothes as wet as the late and great author's pool in the luscious grounds.
Everywhere around the great house bright and heavy flowers bend their dripping petals over the sunlit paths and the six toed cats that are descendants of his felines flick their tails contemptuously at visitors. Hemingway wrote some of his most vibrant works here - For Whom the Bell Tolls and a Farewell to Arms. The house was inhabited by a youthful Hemingway who drank hard and fished hard - but never at the same time. The "Pop" figure, avuncular with a white beard was a later incarnation, although it's this figure that inspires the lookalike competition downtown.
After barely surviving the humidity of the house we crashed on a bench and watched the preparations for a wedding unfold under a great verdant tree. We were entirely inconspicuous and the world went by without us. A wedding planner was scuttling around, a vibrant ball of spiky energy so at odds with the languid afternoon. We watched the old people in their starched shirts looking anxiously at their watches as if marking out their limited time left on earth and the kids bounding across the grass. Even from a distance we could figure out the family dynamics - the black sheep brother who showed up in a dirty T-shirt and handed a surprised guest his cigarette, the bustling business woman making bitchy asides at the appearance of the bride. Still we were transfixed by this odd and antique ordeal, so much ado and energy about two people seeking to get a fix on each other, when we knew the transient and shifting reality.
Although we knew there haphazard and transient nature of life and love, modeled on the great man himself who went through wives like his novels, we felt curiously tranquil in the garden and supremely at ease with each other.
It took some effort to pull ourselves from the garden and hit the hot dusty road by the lighthouse. It took some effort to eventually go our separate ways and not to miss the soft and languid warmth of that afternoon in the garden and the touch of the hot wind.
You could have taken someone else
You should have taken someone else
But you should never go on trips with someone you do not love.