MIAMI BEACH — They were refugees from the North. Susan and Bill. They lived in a high-rise apartment building across the street from the beach, a littered beach where both gorgeous and gross bodies congregated.
The apartment had two bedrooms, one serving as his writing room, two bathrooms and a long balcony with a view of tropical landscaping nine floors below, and beyond that, Collins Avenue and a string of motels and restaurants; and behind that, the Atlantic Ocean.
Susan earned big money as a risk analyst for multinationals doing business in politically unstable countries, and Bill made a modest living selling short stories to magazines and op-ed pieces to newspapers.
Bill had a son, Will, nineteen years old. He lived in Toronto, although he wouldn’t have called it living. He went from job to job. He wrote poetry. He would phone his father collect and they’d talk for an hour or more. In a routine call he said he had walked off his latest job as a security guard and was broke. His father said he’d wire him some money. Susan’s money at that time most likely. In his lean days as a freelancer it was often Susan’s money. She had a big heart, and Bill was inside it living the life.
In one phone call Will said he hated Toronto and wanted to move to New York. He said he’d have $1,500 in the next few days. His father asked him where he got it but Will wouldn’t explain, made a big mystery of it, and his father wondered if he was planning something illegal.
Will said he wanted the two of them to get together in New York. They talked for two hours. The same old merry-go-round they’d been on since Will left school and his father divorced his mother.
Their adult relationship had never been better. When they weren’t talking on the phone they were writing letters to each other.
Bill told his son New York could keep for another time, when he could also live there, and meanwhile to get on a plane to Miami. A prepaid ticket would be waiting for him at the Air Canada counter, just like when he was a little boy and his father had him flying all over the country to visit him wherever he happened to be.
His father arranged for a one-way ticket to be left for him. He could stay with them in Miami Beach while he looked for a place of his own.
It was all set. And then on the night of his departure Will phoned collect from the Toronto airport and said U.S. immigration officials wouldn’t let him board the flight without a round-trip ticket in case he was trying to pull a fast one and enter the States illegally to work.
“You’d think the two countries were at war,” he said to his father.
[To be cont’d]