Sunday afternoon, sitting under large umbrellas on Lincoln Road, my girlfriends and I thought we’d grab a quick bite before saying our goodbyes.
A barefoot man walked by pushing a bicycle. He had a tanned hide and wore only a metallic bronze Speedo. Not long after came an elderly couple singing show tunes from Cats. Then a parade of leggy women in miniskirts.
The floorboards creaked beneath our flip-flops and goosebumps rose from my arms.
“Do you feel that?” I asked my friend Carrie.
“The floor is uneven,” she said. “I feel really out of sorts.”
At the end of the hallway, we opened a door to what looked like the room of a 90-year-old woman – dusty, rose-painted walls, a flower-patterned comforter with matching shower curtain, a framed painting of a garden. Sunlight streamed through the weathered windows.
Nine o’clock, the morning of my 16th birthday, the doorbell rang. “Jenny, your friends are here,” my mom yelled. “Wake up!”
I stumbled out of the room, confused and disoriented. Carrie and Jessica stood in the living room dressed in bathing suits. “Get ready, Jen,” said Carrie. “We’re taking you somewhere special for your big day.”
Ten minutes later we were on our way to Crystal River for a day of tubing. The water was swift and cold. Turtles and snakebirds poked their heads through the surface. Manatees nuzzled against our bodies.