As I raised the fork to my mouth, my eyes flickered, distracted by something to my right. The man sitting across from me in the cafe had finished his meal and was making odd hand movements in front of his face. I realised he was flossing his teeth. At the table. I stared, horrified, as he carefully inspected the used floss before slowly spiralling it onto a napkin in front of him.
It is rather tricky to yelp “What the fu …?” when your mouth is full of rice and beans, so I turned away to look out of the window. And my eyes melted.
A woman of indeterminate age, her bronzed face illuminated under a nest of hair the colour of ginger ale, was hobbling down the street wearing a jumpsuit that looked like it had been rolled in a wet Jackson Pollock painting. Tottering in gold sandals the height of a small mammal, the woman was clawing the arm of a fat, shirtless man beside her, using him as ballast to keep upright. In his free hand, the man carried a handbag. His expression was one of resigned misery. A young boy on a skateboard sped past them, the sudden rush of air knocking the woman off balance and into her companion. His expression did not change as he gently pushed her back.
Welcome to South Beach, Miami.
Arriving in Miami for a few days break from D.C. was like being punched in the face by a peacock, the dull and the bland replaced by the vivid and the raw. At the airport, elderly men with hair that odd, unnatural shade of dark copper watched as girls in arse-skimming shorts bent over to awkwardly retrieve their enormous bags. The chatter around me was in Spanish; someone mumbled a question and I automatically responded “¿Como, Señor?” A man, sitting to the side of the carousel, noisily directed his children to collect his bags then casually lifted a cheek and let rip, as if to seal the deal.
The beach is beautiful, clean and long and golden. There is something rather special about that first walk along the shore, flip-flops in your hand, warm water splashing up to your knees.
South Beach is all about seeing, and being seen. So I sat and watched. Curvy women, their sideboobs squelching out from narrow one-piece swimsuits, wore earrings as long as they were wide, great big gold things like pre-Columbian artifacts. Fat babies, their sausage-link legs bursting from tiny frilly swimsuits, ate sand and stared, mesmerised, at the water tickling their toes. A gaggle of young girls screeched like magpies as they ran to jump the waves at the water’s edge, leaving one of their party to keep guard over their mobile phones.
Young men swaggered across the sand in baggy paisley shorts and striped vests, silvery trails snaking up their muscles and through the tattoos, talking loudly as if their words were the velcro that would make the girls stick to them. An older, rather grubby man, his face glistening like sweating butter, crouched behind a windbreak, taking photos of a group of young girls sitting on towels. The girls noticed him and unfolded their bodies and stretched and posed and laughed.
Further up the beach, a life guard stood with arms outstretched between a couple as they traded insults. “You’re leaving me? You’re fucking leaving me NOW?” the girl screamed as she shook off the twitchy efforts of her friends to comfort her, instead throwing her flip-flops over the head of the life guard.
So much to see, so many little stories. As I made my way back to the hotel, I laughed out loud at the sheer joy of feeling the warm sand between my toes and the sun on my face. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.
My break in Miami passed far too quickly. I pretty much did what every other anti-social British person does on holiday: took walks along the beach, sat by the hotel pool, started on a pile of books and didn’t speak to anyone for four days. Oh, and flossed in private.