The pathos of that statement lightly hammered onto a bicycle sculpture in front of a house on Olivia Street.

A sign by the entrance of a house on Southard: Hippies Use Side Door.

The music drifting out of a house off Duval: Total Eclipse of the Heart.

I leave Key West in a few days, and as I walk it now, I see it — to paraphrase Humbert Humbert — through the mist of my utter acceptance of it.

I love the man who smokes and drinks while riding his bicycle. If he could swim and smoke and drink, he’d do that. The body culture here is softened by self-indulgence, by a loose-limbed exuberance that will crowd three more palms in front of the porch and take in two more cats and lean for hours into a hammock, just looking around.

And why not look around at white houses thronged with green plants, and at the peculiar markings of each specifically loved outpost along the hot breezeways of Key West.

Toward the end of Love Lane, I smell incense and omelets. I hear windchimes and falling water and parrots whistling from hidden stoops.

Happiness feels fully elaborated here; you can read, in house and garden, the way this person and that person have worked out their way to live; and it’s all you can do, sometimes, not to walk down their hibiscus path, press open their unlocked door, and live with them and be their love.

********************

At seven this evening — thirty minutes from now — they’re reenacting the independence battle that made the Conch Republic a republic. I guess I should go, for your sake. Later.

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