A Past You Never Lived

I was late for my flight. Part of it was that ADHD talking, of needing to finish things. The other was seeing if I could put bulky winter gloves in a suitcase that was already packed. In any case, I got an express Lyft and waited with my mom. My sister invited me for the weekend and I was going to fly to New York.

My driver was a jovial man in a pink shirt. He reassured my mom that he would get me to the airport quickly and safely, after putting my suitcase in his trunk. We talked, as he asked about my job, and I asked him about the books that his wife loves to read. My eye remained on the clock.

Then he told me about a Miami and a New York I couldn’t remember. His dad owned a candy store in New York in the 1950s, and he would often go roaming the neighborhood with a group of friends. There was freedom.

The 1960s came and with it chaos. New York became a warzone, he told me; people fired rifles from roofs towards their targets. Civil rights were part of it; the other was growing tensions.

He said that in the 1980s, Miami was once the most dangerous city in the world. Drug cartels wanted to control the distribution of cocaine, mainly sourcing it from Colombia. In Kendall, where people mainly mind their own business and walk on the grass, there was a violent shooting at Dadeland Mall. My family would go there and celebrate occasions at the Cheesecake Factory.

This was news to me. While we had studied the history of Florida in school, we never reached the 1980s. (That’s a common thread, that you never reach the end of the history book.) I couldn’t think of my parents coming here in the 1980s for a job, with mom’s horror stories about pediatrics at the largest hospital in the city and how my older brother needed stomach surgery as a kid. He told me to ask my mom about time in the city.

I made it to my flight. And I thought about how stories can be lost when people have lived them. Even so, I still haven’t asked my mom. She’s more worried about the here and now.

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