Brandon Yu :: Blessings in Disguise ::

Creative Non-Fiction

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

Some people think Florida doesn’t count as the South, but I beg to differ. The heat, Spanish moss, and help-yourself attitude of everyone here in Tampa– many of whom hail from Alabama or Georgia– have made this place a fever dream of pleasant days.

Blessings in Disguise

Life in Florida is a perpetual summer vacation. My parents are always eager to visit, if only for the sun. Last year, they flew over to take me to Key West over spring break— a vacation within a vacation— five hours south of Tampa.

 God knows I needed it, with all those classes I was taking in calculus and computer science. I spent a pleasant week kayaking in the green waters of the Keys and ordering fries and hamburgers to-go from a small, tropical-themed diner next to our motel. But it was the ride home that really left an impact on me.

Unfortunately, I’m a bit of a masochist. I think the best learning experiences are the unpleasant ones. They stick longer.

To make it in time for classes on Monday, mom and dad drove me to the airport for a rapid, two-hour flight back home. After parting ways at the security checkpoint, I made it to my plane just before the gate closed. Sitting in front of me was a large woman with a cloying Southern accent. Ahead of her was a woman in her early twenties. Nearing the end of our flight, she struck up a heated phone conversation with her boyfriend.

“Excuse me, but can you not curse?” the large woman suggested. “It’s awfully inappropriate, given we’re in an airplane and all.”

“Mind your own business,” the girl said, returning to her phone conversation with the unaffected nonchalance of a verbal combatant.

“Well, it’s just awfully rude, is all,” the woman muttered with a hint of rising annoyance as she sank back into her seat. “It’s very inconsiderate to curse in an airplane. Your parents really have done a poor job raising you.”

The woman appeared to settle down as the plane descended below the cloudbank, while the girl continued her phone conversation. I could hardly hear her above the drone of the engines.

Suddenly the woman let out a high, manufactured cackle a witch would envy. She worked herself into hysteria, diving headfirst into a speech she’d clearly ruminated over for the past fifteen minutes. “I just think it’s ridiculous how a girl like you knows so many awful words and still think it’s okay to use them. You’re in public, honey,” she said in a tone of exasperated displeasure.

The girl spun around. “Excuse me, I’m talking to my boyfriend,” she said. “Leave me alone.”

“Your boyfriend?” the woman scoffed. “That’s rich. He won’t be your boyfriend for long if you keep using that language with him. I pity you— I really do— if you think that’s the right way to talk to someone. You won’t get far in life if you keep that up, honey.”

“Okay, listen, lady,” the girl said. “I don’t know who you are, but you need to back off. My conversation is none of your business. I’m talking to someone. Stay out of it. Bless your heart.”

I didn’t know you could be in a livid argument with a stranger and find time to bless their hearts. Then I realized it was the Southern way of telling someone to fuck off. 

The girl was furious, but continued to bless the woman as if she was in need of a holy bath. “Mind your own business,” the girl spat. “Bless your heart. You need to back off— bless your heart—leave me and my boyfriend alone— bless your heart.”

The verbal sparring went on even after we arrived in Tampa and passengers began deboarding.

“I feel bad for your boyfriend,” the woman said.

“Narcissist,” the man sitting next to the woman grumbled, eyeing her warily.

Somehow, I made it home in one piece. After arriving at my dormitory, Alan—my roommate from Southern California— was playing Stairway to Heaven at full blast and entertaining five girls I didn’t know in the living room. It was almost midnight. 

“Can you turn that down?” I said. I had an exam tomorrow.

“Dude, chill out,” Alan said, ignoring me completely.

“Bless your heart,” I said, and smiled.