The Florida Museum of Natural History
by Aleksia Mira Silverman
After I sign the divorce papers, Jessica takes me and our son to the Florida Museum of Natural History. I count down our trips in the minivan as a family; Jessica taps her fingers along to the radio, her red acrylic nails sparkling in the sunlight. The entrance hall of the Florida Museum of Natural History smells like a pet store. We buy tickets. Inside the first room: leaves spread open wide, dinosaur bones, the swooping double crescent of mammoth tusks. Jessica brings out three packets of Cheez-Its. In the next room, there is a wall of butterflies pinned to boards like military medals. The wings swirl, merge, make us dizzy. Our son is wearing wheelies, and he whips down all the empty halls, leaving black comet trails across the marble. Jessica and I grew up next door to each other. On weekends, we slept in the same bed, pillows at the headboard and footboard. My toes tangled in her braids, she grabbed onto my shins if she had nightmares. In the morning, we whispered our dreams into our breakfast. I dreamed that my parents built a guillotine. Jessica dreamed that bullfrogs sprung from the oven. I dreamed a woman proposed to me with a feather. Jessica dreamed she was trapped in a geode. You were in this one! Jessica said one day, and my stomach clenched. Later, we sat on the porch, waiting to get big. In the Florida Museum of Natural History, Jessica tells me about the apartments she’s looking at in Tampa, the restaurants she wants to try. A security guard comes to tell off our son. Our son has wheelied away from us and has his fingers corseting a custard-colored raptor tibia. Thanks, says Jessica to the security guard. She puts a hand on his shoulder, and I feel something inside me tear. We leave. There’s a swing to Jessica’s step that reminds me of nights spent in a cloud of citronella, chasing lizards through my backyard. On our way out, I pass an alligator with its jaws stretched open, its glass eyes wide with anticipation.
Image credit: Fleur