Ladies of Key West

Updated: Jan 17

“The mosquitoes are never this bad,” they said in some soft accent, “it is never this humid.”

My grandparents and I took advantage of our free guest drinks as I met them after a run by the hotel bar. It was a day of heat and fatigue. We woke up early for a tour of the Hemingway house and a boat ride. We ate lunch at a famous café and drank blackberry sangria my grandma would take to go. We walked far and so the coolness of the evening was much appreciated rest. In waiting for our drinks, mosquitoes swarmed endlessly. They formed patches of darkness and attacked faster than we could swat. The bartender passed around bug spray, but to no end. We fled inside. Our bodies were swollen, red, and itchy. We feared re-approaching the bar to suffer through it all again. However, we did return eventually to rescue the abandoned drinks waiting on the counter. While slapping my legs to swat, two women sitting nearby, offered an alternative bug spray. I took the offer and it seemed to work better. I thanked them. One woman spoke, “You look like you’re from where we are.” The other, “Yeah, she really does.” I was confused at first but realized the ladies were Irish. Long residents of Key West, their comments on my red hair came as a longing for home. I told them of my family heritage, my working under an Irish boss, and my plans for studying in Galway. Excited after hearing of my future study, one woman revealed she was born in Galway, and then proceeded to sell me on the city. The other, in battle for Cork, urged me to explore all that Ireland had to offer. Their children were playing in the pool and begged for their mothers’ attention, yet still, they remained in conversation. We talked of Paris and Iceland, travel, and fun. They told me how they ended up here unexpectedly and became friends just the same. One woman debated moving to Bar Harbor and wished for her son a wholesome home. The other missed Ireland but loved the beach more. She would stay. They saw in me, themselves, and told me so. They wished for me to pursue all— the opportunities they didn’t. Through their trials and pains, they called me beautiful. But, their kids’ nagging did eventually catch up. Saying goodbye with hugs, they drove off on mopeds. I returned to my seat to join my grandparents.

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