Florida Mornings in Summer
There is no smell quite like that of a Florida summer morning. The warmth and humidity preserve the warm scent of the sun on the oak trees all through the night so that by sunup it’s just barely lingering from the previous day. This mingles with the salty undertones of the Gulf, and the faint odor of car exhaust. The exact smell that I’m talking about takes shape after 3am, but before 7am, in that precious window where the world feels secret. I wake up to this smell almost every morning, me having to go to work before the sun comes up. It used to be that I only caught it when I stayed up all night. Yes, I’ve gotten very familiar with that early morning summer smell.
Shortly after high school, I ran into an ex boyfriend. He was someone who had hurt me very badly. But I forgave him the minute he smiled at me. I was working in a dollar store in the mall then, closing up late at night. We started seeing each other. We would go out with friends when I got off work, then spend the rest of the night at his house. All those R&B songs talk about making love all night. I never thought that was possible until I was with him. Rolling out of the rumpled, sweaty sheets, indulging in passionate good-bye kisses, and sneaking out of his house in the quiet hours before sunup was how I first became acquainted with that smell. To me, it’s forever married to the experience of falling in love.
It made appearances after swing dances or late parties, during nights out with friends at Kristina’s 24-hour Café. My best friend Nick would play guitar, and though the people who joined us there would always be different, they would always end up staying there talking with us until the sky grew light around the edges.
That was how I met Allen. He was home for the summer from college in Gainesville. One night sitting on the bench outside Kristina’s was all it took. Before we knew it, it was 6am and we were exchanging promises to meet again.
We soon spent another whole night sitting by Mirror Lake before he finally kissed me. Dazed with infatuation and lack of sleep, we walked the streets of downtown. I love the early hours of the morning because they’re so secret. The city is silent, and it could be that no one in the world exists except for us. We climbed onto one of the huge red metal chairs that make up the art exhibit outside the St. Petersburg Courthouse, and we stayed there holding each other for a very long time. I can recall few moments in my life that have achieved the same height of perfection that I felt just then. I never wanted the sun to come up. Unfortunately it did, and the passing days and weeks showed that our romance wasn’t meant to be.
I’ve always declared myself an anti-morning person, even though I seem to have a love affair with early mornings. They smell of adventure and romance and friendship, at least to my nose. I like to think about that as I drive to work.
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