“Maybe I shouldn’t go,” I said as Javier pulled his BMW into the parking garage at Miami International Airport. My flight to Boston was due to leave in an hour and a half, and I was feeling travel jitters.
“Don’t be silly, mi amor
,” Javier said. “This is the chance of a lifetime. I wish I could come with you, but we’ll talk and Skype and see each other at your school breaks.”
I loved the way Javier talked, the occasional rolled r
, the way every Spanish word—even street names—got the perfect Castilian pronunciation. He was almost unbelievably handsome: dark curly hair, with one stray lock that dropped over his forehead; cinnamon skin, deep green eyes, and lips that were so full and luscious, I longed to kiss them again and again.
My life changed the day Javier Marisco and I first flirted, in the floral department at the Publix on South Beach. That evening, at a party I was organizing, we’d shared an amazing lip-lock, followed by falling head-over-heels in love. Since then, he’d been the only man for me.
Sure, we had our differences—I was a night owl; he was a morning person. I was Anglo, and he was Latin, and our economic backgrounds were opposites. But we got each other. We talked for hours, and we had great sex.
When I was in college, I modeled for Abercrombie and Fitch, because I had the blond good looks and lithe body that showed clothes at their best. My appearance is a combination of genetics, cash, and pampering; the men in my dad’s family are incredibly handsome, and I’m just the latest in the line. My teen years were a mix of braces, expensive acne cream, and long workouts with the swim team. In college I began planning parties at my fraternity, and then I moved to Miami and made myself into a nightlife entrepreneur.
As Javier and I got to know each other, we talked a lot about our future, and I admitted that I had skated through college on my looks, charm, and native intelligence. He spurred me to make more of a career for myself, and after a hot and heavy few months, I was ready to leave for Cambridge, Massachusetts, to begin my MBA at Harvard. “Seriously,” I said. “I can take classes at FIU with you. I don’t care what name is on my diploma.”
Javier neatly pulled into a parking space and shut the car off. “This is your destiny, mi amor,” he said. He leaned over and kissed me. “Now get your bag from the trunk and get moving.”
We walked together along one of the moving sidewalks that led into the terminal. All around us were people going purposefully forward, and I wished I was as sure of my destination as they seemed to be. I checked my big rolling duffel bag at the kiosk and got my boarding pass, and Javier walked with me up to the security line.
I wanted to kiss him then, but Javier had grown up Cuban-American, among great prejudice against maricons
, as we were called, and I knew he’d hate making a spectacle. So instead I hugged him good-bye and promised to call as soon as I landed. Then I watched him walk away, worrying that I might be screwing up the best relationship of my life by leaving him behind.
Javier had a successful business in Miami, so he couldn’t pick up and follow me. Instead, he’d begun taking graduate courses at FIU in Miami. Once I was settled at Harvard, we talked almost every night, and a couple of times a week we had longer Skype chats. It seemed like every time we finished a conversation, I had to jerk myself off to relieve the sexual tension of missing him.
It was in one of those Skype chats that he mentioned he had bought a piece of property he wanted to develop. “It’s going to be my first building from scratch,” he said proudly. “When you come down here, I’ll show you.”
He looked so happy, and I hated that I couldn’t be there to share this with him. “On the beach?” I asked. Javier had already renovated several apartment buildings in the art deco district.
“Wynwood. Right across the causeway. I’m telling you, mi amor, Wynwood is going to be the next hot neighborhood. South Beach has been over for years, and the design district is already too expensive for small developers like me.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been to Wynwood. Isn’t it right next to Overtown?” Overtown was the historically black district of Miami, just north of downtown, and it had been gutted when I-95 was rammed through it. Since then it had been a scene of urban despair, riots, and drive-by shootings.
“Overtown is changing too, mi amor,” he said. “You don’t remember what Miami Beach was, before all the renovations. Run-down buildings, dangerous streets. And look what happened there.”
“I trust you,” I said. We ended the call with besos
, kisses and hugs, and I looked up Wynwood online. The description of the area didn’t match the photos. People blogged and bragged about how Wynwood was an up-and-coming neighborhood of Miami, sandwiched between downtown and the already vibrant design district. But it looked awful—empty sun-bleached streets, warehouses tagged with graffiti. Who would want to live, shop, or work in a place like that?
I was so excited when Thanksgiving break arrived, and I could hop back to Miami for a visit with Javier. He picked me up at the airport late in the afternoon on the day before the holiday, and once we were in his car, I leaned over and kissed him. He kissed me back quickly, then turned the car on. “We need to get moving,” he said.
“I like the way you think,” I said. “I can’t wait to get back to your apartment and get naked with you.”
“Yes, we’ll do that. But first I want to show you the property. You’re going to flip.”
I started to flip as we waited at an interminable light on the exit ramp and an old black guy in shorts hobbled past us, holding his hands out for money. I realized he was limping because he had no foot, just a stump banging onto the hot pavement. As we passed him, Javier rolled down his window and handed the guy a five-dollar bill.
Traffic was heavy, luxury cars alternating with old beaters and tricked-out motorcycles. Javier turned onto a narrow one-way street lined with graffiti-covered warehouses, and we passed a guy leaning up against a wall, pissing.
All the available parking spots on both sides of the street were taken. Javier pulled up in front of a chain-link fence that surrounded a single-story warehouse scarred with swirls of brightly colored graffiti. He handed me a key chain with a fob in the shape of the island of Cuba. “The dark blue one opens the padlock, mi amor.”
I hopped out of the Beemer, and the heat and humidity hit me like a slap in the face. Yeah, I had lived in Miami, but I had become accustomed to Boston’s cool weather. I undid the padlock and opened the gate as Javier drove through, I looked around nervously. A big delivery truck from a restaurant-supply company was unloading up ahead, and behind us I saw a couple of teenaged boys in bandannas and torn jeans.
I locked the gate behind us as Javier got out of the car. “I just closed on it two weeks ago,” he said. “We start demolition next week.”
It looked to me like the whole neighborhood needed to be demolished. Yet I saw a group of people who were clearly tourists on foot down the block, taking photos and pointing at the street art. There was a constant flow of cars along the narrow street, and across from us two guys carried furniture from a rental truck into a warehouse.
“Come on; let’s get a coffee, and I’ll tell you everything,” Javier said. We left the car locked up and walked around the corner to a small-batch coffee roaster and café, where I was surprised to find a line of hipsters waiting for single-origin coffee.
A girl in a hot-pink crop top with a white shawl draped over her shoulders stood beside a bearded guy in plaid shorts held up by suspenders, both of them surveying the menu. A blonde girl with the strap of a big SLR camera wrapped around her wrist spoke eagerly in what sounded like Dutch to her boyfriend, who wore a tank top and bright orange running shorts.
“I’ll take a grande mocha with raspberry syrup,” I told Javier.
He shook his head. “They don’t do that kind of drink here. You pick where you want the beans from, and they don’t clutter it up with syrups and flavors.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“Hey, this isn’t Starbucks.”
It sure wasn’t. The decor was what my father called “early industrial,” with exposed concrete on the walls and floor; some burlap coffee bags hung on the walls for effect. The barista was a skinny guy with a man bun who rang up our order on an iPad and then swiped Javier’s credit card through a little plug on the side.
It was the first time I’d seen someone use an iPad for mobile payments, and I was impressed. Maybe there was something to this Wynwood area after all.
We sat together by the window, and I watched the passing parade. Young black guys with Rasta hair, skinny white girls in tiny shorts and flip-flops, young Latin guys on skateboards, a cluster of moms and kids all drinking iced coffees.
It felt so good to be back with Javier. We talked about the property, and his enthusiasm was contagious. He wanted me to help him with marketing once the building was under construction, and just like before, we began finishing each other’s sentences and laughing together over shared references.
We finally made it back to the Madrigal—a 1930s building Javier had renovated on a side street south of Fifth. We rode up in the key-operated elevator to his sixth-floor penthouse, which had a dazzling bayfront view of the Miami skyline.
As soon as we walked in, I turned and embraced him. We kissed, but he pulled away quickly. “I’ve been out on sites all day, mi amor,” he said. “I need a shower.”
“I don’t care. I’ve been waiting for this since I left in August.”