NEW CHAPTER!!! NEW UNTITLED BOOK!!! Written by JULIANA JONES
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I moved to Florida and when I landed in Tampa, I knew immediately, something was off. The hotel I stayed at which cost a mere $400 for one night on the Riverwalk was old and decrepit and the fire alarm kept going off when I took a shower. The maintenance crew had to “rush in,” and turn it off, and knocked over my luggage which caused my glasses to fall out and go missing for weeks on end.
I had no money when I moved to Florida. All my crypto positions took a bath, and I hadn’t worked in three years because Covid was still running rampant and I didn’t take the jab. Didn’t trust it. Hell, I didn’t trust a lot of things in life. Perhaps that was my one blessing, perhaps it was a curse – the jury was still out, but I lived my life, my way. And what a life it was.
Fifty years old and nothing to show for it. Dodged that bullet of ever getting married, ever having kids, ever owning a house, ever settling down, anywhere. Florida would change all that, I thought. My parents lived on the east coast. They had a good life. Where did mine go wrong?
My father said he’d buy me a condo. “Come back east,” he’d tell me over and over again. “You’ll be safe, you’ll be close to family.” Truth of it was, I went to LA to get as far away from family as I possibly could. LA, the city of dreams, the city that dashed all of mine.
Try as I might, all my dreams to be a writer went up in smoke. Yes, I published two books, and yeah, they were great (*in my opinion; nobody else’s because nobody really ever read them,) but they didn’t pay the bills, and I was broker than broke. I had $70,000 worth of debt on my credit cards – yes, I paid my rent with them because what else was there to do when the government cuts off your supply of money, AND your ability to get a job without the vaccine, so life was grim.
Somehow it didn’t really phase me, because life had been grim for a while. It’s kind of like this film that covers over you; always a film of fear, of loathing, of despair, that no matter what happened; it always seemed to be there. Even if you made a score in the market or landed some temp gig for a while, or fell for some hot guy, there was always the shoe that felt that it was ready to drop at any time.
Drop and implode.
It became a way of life.
A part of me got off on all of this; of always being on the edge; of always being on the brink of starting a new adventure; of meeting someone new. But eventually, all roads led back to me: Jolette Marco, and the picture of the girl who’s eyes stared back at me in the mirror, although pretty, were always the same – grim, and a failure.
Moving to Florida would give me a new life; or so I thought. People went there to die, didn’t they? And I about had had enough. I mean, how many more meals with different people would I have to endure? How many different jobs would I have to work to support myself? How many different landlords would go through my credit history to rent me an apartment? And one place was shittier than the next. Especially on my budget.
No, I was ready to go down. Put my head down and die. How many years did I have left? 50? I’m Italian. Both grandmothers lived to 100+. Thinking about it, exhausted me. But for now, I just needed to keep the train moving.
I checked out of the Tampa hotel; no love lost there; I wasn’t a fan of Tampa. Despite its rave reviews, other than the decent food, I didn’t quite see the allure. I spent the day on a boat cruising around the city, getting a tour. It was fun; I tried to pretend I was on a yacht; I was pretty good at pretending after all these years, and I met some pretty cool people. In the back of my mind was the fact that I had given up everything I had in LA; my rent controlled apartment on the beach in Santa Monica; my long unemployment stints that every writer and actor took advantage of to write or act, or whatever. The free healthcare that I never used, and just the camaraderie of other creatives; I left all that behind to live in Florida. Boring, vanilla Florida where people went to die.
The city of Tampa, though surrounded by water, didn’t have an edge; rents were sky high, and I was glad to leave the next morning. When I handed my ticket to the Valet man, I only wondered what sort of condition my old Mercedes would roll out in, if it even rolled out at all. The car was over 20 years old and showed more bruises and dents which was a perfect depiction of what we went through together in LA.
But when I saw my baby sputtering and trying to make her way towards me in the circular driveway of the Sheraton Riverwalk, I started crying. We were reunited again. Me and my car. Other than my cat, this was the longest relationship I had ever had with anything in my entire life. It made it. We made it. We were back on the East coast. We were “home;” whatever that meant.
I headed out to Clearwater. I already had an application filled out for a one bedroom in Island Estates. It would cost me $1900 a month, but my dad was helping me until we figured stuff out. Housing prices were incredibly high and we both agreed that it wouldn’t be smart to buy at the top of the market, so I’d rent for a year. Endure another landlord for a year. I didn’t have many options.
Correction: I didn’t have any options.
When I got to the apartment building, I was excited. I brought with me blankets and I’d sleep on the floor until my stuff arrived from LA. Which, according to them, wouldn’t be for a few weeks. I didn’t plan this out well. I didn’t really want to leave LA. It’s like I was dragged. By the movers with their only available “move date,” and then by the landlord who offered to pay me off if I “vacated the unit.” It was “rent controlled,” after all. I knew I’d regret it. But I pocketed the four grand and took off. I was on a red eye flight in a matter of days, without much thought to any of it.
Somehow I knew it would be a decision I’d regret. Somehow, I knew this was not my smartest move. But I was in a rut.
Covid did that to people. And the only way out of it, was to do something rash.
Driving over the Florida bridges in my car with the radio on and my hair blowing in the wind because the air conditioning didn’t work, I felt good. I felt hopeful. It was beautiful here.
I had a lot to look forward to. Didn’t I?
I hoped the beauty of this place would beautify my soul.
I guess time would tell.
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