My Summer Holiday at The Hemingway House
I’m walking down the sidewalk under the shade of swaying palm trees and the shadows of seagulls. I feel too much at ease to worry about whether or not they’ll poop on me. I’m drinking from a large coconut with a straw and admiring the red and yellow conch train carting tourists all over Key West; the beautiful and eccentric island at the southernmost tip of the USA.
A heavily tattooed man with a spikey mohawk that’s been dyed the colour of aquamarine nods at me as he walks by, a street performer doused in silver paint imitates a statue for tips on the busy sidewalk, an open shirted man with a cuban cigar hanging out of his mouth paints portraits of those wishing to take home something special, something that will help them to remember this most fantastic holiday.
After a big lunch of seafood and key lime pie on a stick covered in chocolate, we were making our way to our next adventure: Ernest Hemingway’s house turned museum. Here I was, I couldn’t believe it, longtime fan of Hemingway and aspiring writer, about to enter the location genius was spawned! I might have jumped up and down with excitement but I was trying to conserve as much energy as possible, as the temperature was, no exaggeration here, BURNING OFF MY PRECIOUS AND MUCH NEEDED SKIN!
We reach the entrance and I am reeling. The house is white with dark green shutters. It’s two stories with a black wraparound balcony and thin columns. It’s as if we have stepped into an older era, somehow fallen through time, and as if Hemingway himself could come out to greet us. “Welcome to my home!”
We purchase our tickets and hurry inside. I try to touch everything in hope that some of his skill will rub off on me, that I will absorb some of that talent, as if he left it behind along with the house. We choose not to join the tour, instead exploring on our own. A framed movie poster(For whom the Bells Toll starring Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper) and pictures of a young Hemingway and his former spouses(Pauline Pfeiffer and Hadley Richardson to name a few) hang on the wall. The wood floor creaks below our shoes, and the staircase is especially narrow, so much so that I become a bit nervous and grip the railing for dear life. Please don’t die, let me at least get to see the second story first!
I make it to the top alive, and look around, coming face to face with an African tribal mask. Hemingway loved traveling to Africa, both to hunt and go on safaris. In his bedroom, there is a four poster bed and strewn across the white comforter is a grey cat with six toes. We take a cuddle break to give the spoiled thing some loving(we’re such suckers!).
The Hemingway House is home to over ten six-toed cats. Hemingway was given a white six-toed cat named Snow White by a ship’s captain and some of the cat’s that live at the house today are said to be descendant’s of Snow White. There is even a cat cemetary on the grounds.
After our cuddle break, I peek into his bathroom, checkered and porcelain. I notice my sister outside the window and we wave at eachother, laughing. That’s when I see it, sitting below the bathroom window- A cardboard box full of old, well worn books. They are falling apart at the seams, some of the covers completely missing. I have the urge to slip one into my purse. No one will ever know! I check over my shoulder and the coast is clear. I’m about to go for it when I suddenly wonder if stealing a book from Ernest Hemingway will curse me with bad writing juju? Is it similar to breaking a mirror? Will I have seven years of bad writer’s luck? It’s these thoughts that stop me from stealing one of the books, and I do a sort of walk of shame out of Hemingway’s bedroom.
We settle for souvenirs from the giftshop. I choose a T-shirt(very tourist-like, no?), a pen, and a few postcards as I like to collect them. As I’m waiting for my turn to check out and admiring the tote bags, I take a step back and crush someone’s toes. I look up to see a goodlooking young man with a head full of curls and apologetic eyes. I channel one of the six-toed cats. MEOW.
“Pardon!” he says. French. I’m momentarily in love, not sure why he’s apologising to me when I’m the one who has crushed him, and have to force myself not to respond with,”Yes, I’ll marry you!”
The cashier gestures that my turn has come, so I mumble an apology to the French Adonis, and pay for my things. I walk to my last stop, Hemingway’s office, wondering if I should drop everything, move to Paris, and pursue writing there.
Another narrow staircase later, I’m standing behind a black gate and looking over a red tiled room with many bookcases, an old typewriter and journal sitting on a table, and portraits of the man who used them. I feel like an outsider, someone who isn’t supposed to be there, so I don’t linger too long. Plus there are people waiting for their turn to be intruders on the past. I walk down the stairs overlooking the rectangular pool, wishing for nothing more than to take a quick dip. I have sweat in places I didn’t know could sweat. But the pool is roped off and swimming is out of the question.
We leave Hemingway House and return to the present; streets crowded with tourists, smoke shops, tie-dye clothing and handmade jewellery. I feel tired and wreak of cat, and at the same time, I’m a little sad. I can’t pinpoint exactly why I feel this way, after I had been looking forward to it for so long. I realised after recounting my holiday to others that it was because this story was about someone who’s made their mark on the world and someone who wishes they could. Although I came away inspired as well, because seeing Hemingway’s home both humanised the legend and in turn, made me feel like maybe I’ll leave my mark on this world as well. But when I buy my own house one day, I’ll make sure I find one with wider staircases.
Where did you go on your Summer Holiday?