When I got off the plane in Jacksonville, I felt like I was in a movie where the kids go away to camp and their parents move away without telling them. Except for me, it wasn't that they didn't tell me about it, but rather that I conveniently forgot about it all summer long.
I knew somewhere in a tiny part of my brain kept mostly shuttered that when I left my house in Pittsburgh to go to camp in June I was leaving my childhood home for the last time. And somewhere in my grey matter was floating the idea that plane tickets to Florida had been booked for me for August, but I was thinking of it more like a vacation rather than a place where I would have all the things one has in the place they live.
So I spent eight weeks at the camp I loved, pretending that everything was as it should be. I lived in a cabin with friends that had been mine for years, making late night mac and cheese in contraband hot pots and reading Judy Blume's Summer Sisters out loud to each other. I had my first kiss, learned how to slalom on water skis, and made a deliciously ugly pillow in the art shack.
And if the occasional thought of my parents setting up our new house in Jacksonville crossed my mind, I shoved it down and smothered it with bug juice and barbecues.
Except camp doesn't last forever, and I had a plane ticket to Florida that I suddenly couldn't ignore anymore.
The land below the descending plane was flat, brown, and foreign. The blacktop of the runway seemed to simmer in the stifling heat that is late summer in the south. The jolt of landing yanked me roughly out of one reality and deposited me into another, creating the fault line between my lives that said to me, "you live here now and not there."
I sat in the back corner of the car on the way home and stared out the window at the unfamiliar scenery and the palm trees rushing by. Along the highway billboards screamed bible verses touting the virtues of Christianity and decrying abortion and I felt like I had entered another world, which I guess I had. So I closed my eyes and didn't open them again until I felt the car pull into the driveway.
When I walked in the door of the house my mind was running on a constant loop, chanting I don't know this place. I felt my breath backing up in my chest and knew I had to do something - anything - or I would run screaming from the house that was now supposed to be home.
There were bags to unpack and my new room to set up, but there was time enough for that. Instead, I dug out a bathing suit that still smelled like camp and pulled it on, searched out a towel, and headed straight outside.
As I dove into the clear, cool waters of the swimming pool that was only steps away from my back door, I had the fleeting thought that maybe Florida wouldn't be so bad after all.