This story was a submission to our March 2022 Short Story Contest.
Hectic and disorganized. Crawling with panicking and unnerved tourists. The airport should be an annoyingly coordinated place. But it is the very opposite. As I stood in front of and looked up to the flight information board, I wipe the increasing amount of sweat off my upper lip and I collect myself. Inhale deeply, exhale deeply. I look for my flight on the screen. It is across the airport. And leaves in 20 minutes. It’s okay, we can do this. After a messy combination of nervous speed walking and full on running, we made it! With time to spare. I take a seat and relax. The fun hasn't even started, yet I’m on the verge of a full on panic attack. That pretty much sums up airports.
We’ve arrived. We’re in America’s smelly armpit. As I step out of the airport, I expect a nice gush of cool air, maybe even the smell of a hint of rain. Nope. A humid, almost damp breeze of recycled air sweeps my face, shoving my hair in my face and in my eyes. Yep, that’s fitting. Despite the less than ideal climate, it’s actually beautiful. It’s late evening, so there is an alluring sunset. A bird lands on the strip of sidewalk right in front of me and almost smiles. Good job, Florida, you’ve managed to change my mind about you.
As we’re walking through the parking lot to the rental car, suddenly my foot is soaking wet. I look down to see my foot completely drenched. I look back, and there is a huge puddle I somehow didn’t see and walked right through. It’s okay, that won’t ruin my mood. We get in the car, I blast the AC until it is fairly bearable. It’s still warm enough for my skin to peel off the leather seats, so not yet. As we drive out of the parking lot, I put on the radio, and open the windows. The feeling of the wind in my hair and on my face is nice now. I don’t mind it as much.
We walk into our hotel room, and we quickly realize that this is the kind of hotel where you keep your shoes on inside because you don't want whatever it is that’s on the floors to be on your feet. And I turn on the tv that really only gets a Disney show you’ve never heard of with a spotty connection.
I look around the bathroom. The mini shampoo and conditioner have clearly been opened. The glass of water sitting on the counter has lipstick smears in a shade I don’t wear. Not super ideal, but the complimentary pancakes are pretty nice.
We pack a bag, everything we’ll need for a day at the beach. As I approach the beach, I think about how nice the warm sand will feel on my feet. But as I take off my flip-flops and take my first step in the sand, it’s not nice. It feels like a million little needles burning my feet. I wobble quickly across the beach to a peaceful spot. Lay down the blanket and try to ignore the multiple grains of sand that have landed on it. I smear half the bottle of sunscreen on my already sweaty arms. The sun is blinding. I feel like I’m already getting a sunburn. Once the sunscreen is no longer sticky and oily, but soaked in properly, I eye the water. As I walk to the water, I sweep the sand off my legs. I hesitantly dip one toe at a time into the sparkling water. It is ice-cold. How it can be so hot out, yet the water is so cold, puzzles me. The waves are hard and aggressive. Overwhelming. But once I get the hang of it, very enjoyable. As I jump through the lively waves, water splashes into my mouth. I am taken aback. The frigid water is astoundingly salty. I need a moment to get this disgusting taste that has coated my mouth out. After nearly a whole can of lukewarm coke, I can’t taste the salt anymore. After a long day at the beach, we walk back to the car. I am exhausted. I was right, I am sunburned. But it was worth it.