Long Key, Florida Keys – March 13, 2013
There’s a set of old bridges shadowing me as I paddle north. Concrete arches stretch between islands. Blown out sections let boats slip through. Fishermen hang over the railing with rods in the air. It’s Flagler’s bridge, finished in 1912, constructed to extend Florida’s East Coast Railway to Key West, transformed into the first overseas highway. It was once a wonder of the world and it still looks sturdy a hundred years later.
I paddle and stare at it. I count arches and watch waves slap against the concrete. I try to imagine a ’58 Oldsmobile sliding across the top with its frame sunk low by the weight of four kids and everything my grandparents owned. There were no moving vans when you fled Cuba. Whatever didn’t fit, disappeared.
“It was right there,” I think. “Right on top of that arch.”
I wonder if they looked down at the ocean as they drove. I wonder what they were thinking, if those kids really believed what their dad told them as soon as they rolled off the ferry dock in Key West.
“You’re never going back to Cuba,” he said. “This is your home now.”
Then they drove on that old bridge, Flagler’s railroad turned highway, to find the American Dream.