The sea is not my home. The coast is not my home. These Palmettos and agaves, the Spanish moss and dry grass, are not my plants. They’re beautiful. But they’re not mine. In my dreams, the towering pines, edifices to nature’s strength despite seasonal fires and sandy soil, are comforting. Light filters through their high canopies, the warm air softly cradling the bare skin of my arms and legs even in the forests’ shade. Rarely is anything so perfect. No, in reality, at least this time around, the forests I do see are survivors of a suburban explosion, an atomic blast of parking lots, strip malls, affordable single-story housing on reclaimed swampland. The still air is shattered by car horns.
This is not dead-end Nowhere, no-name gas stations staking out a piece of real estate at an unappealing exit in the humid dredges of an endless highway, instead, this is Somewhere. Being Somewhere, however, doesn’t mean it escapes the same kind of sadness that Nowhere has: Same type of feeling, different details. Hardly matters in the grand scheme of things, because neither place is desirable. Somewhere can be nowhere when the southwestern-inspired mall facades are all the same. When the homogeneity of a painfully average existence cuts just the same as Nowhere, where the stretch of road in front of you is more inviting than what lies at your destination, because at least on the road, you can divorce yourself from the past and future and live in-between, creating a new reality in the process of forgetting your current one. But it passes, and the false world collapses, and you’re still moving in the same direction. You don’t even need to be travelling to Nowhere to end up nowhere, often, going Somewhere in this abyss still leads nowhere.
It is not my existence, but I can imagine it becoming mine just as easily, dying slowly, unfulfilled, trapped by an ocean dream, a Palmetto lie, a series of decisions invisible in the moment but which lead to my being stranded in the life that sits beyond that visible stretch of road. Maybe, it could’ve been avoided by destroying the dream of this place entirely. If the imagined world is ripped away like billboard vinyl in hurricane wind, the truth is bared for all passing cars to see. Not for me, though. This place is not, and has never been my home, yet I call it that regardless. It’s not true, but it is, Somewhere and Nowhere, hopeful and hopeless, alive and dead. Or maybe it’s all just me.
Inspired by a terrible feeling of hopelessness and unease I couldn’t get rid of on a beautiful, sunny day near El Jobean, Florida, when I was still incredibly depressed and denying it. The header image looks out over a portion of the community, but the images in my head when writing this were an amalgamation of that view and others, particularly the highway when heading south on the Tamiami Trail near the Punta Gorda Forestry Station in Punta Gorda, Florida.