Running stairs in Miami
Eighteen floors between us and the ground. Up at six, I trot down them, spiraling down, stumbling down, back to the earth. The concrete stairwell goes on forever, dim and fluorescent, poured years ago by tired men from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Central America. The walls and steps bear the marks of their creation: wooden imprints of the knotty boards that formed them, circular scratches from the finishing machine that ground them flat. Over the years they’ve become stained with spit, dropped hot dogs and careless paint. No one will come here, everyone thinks, so why not?
At the bottom I touch the red drain pipe in the corner and turn. I run back up, taking the stairs two at a time until my legs threaten to explode, at floor six. I settle into a rhythm. There are two sets of stairs between each floor, separated by a landing. My breath adjusts. Step and rise, step and rise, tight right turn at the landing. I’m on the balls of my feet, arms like a runner, shoulders back. Confronted with the mechanics of scripted right turns and regimented steps my mind is free to wander.
In our room my wife is a coffee bean wrapped in white sheets, her small, tan body warm in the dawn air. When we arrived she dispatched the daily housekeeper, preferring privacy, and turned off the air conditioner, preferring the balcony’s open door. I agree. Left to our own devices we’d nest like birds in the canopy of Miami’s high rise jungle, swooping down each evening for wine and key lime pie and hunting for espresso in the mornings. Three times down and back up. A quick stop at the gym on the twenty first floor to lift weights. The sky is already pink, and I walk the few flights back down to our room, slip through the door. It’s a mess. The clothes are in piles. The bathroom is an explosion of towels and tubes and shimmering salves. There’s a chocolate bar torn open on the counter. Empty wine glasses on the bedside table. The ocean breeze spills into the room. I settle into a chair on the balcony to let my breathing slow, and feel the day wake up.