When construction workers dug up the land at the bank of the Miami River, they discovered a perfect circle carved into the limestone. At first, they shrugged it off. They had planned to build high-rise condos over the so-called "septic tank." Some people took a look at the stone Circle and wondered if UFOs landed there. Others believed that we had found the lost city of Atlantis.
The archeologists swooped down with their buckets and brushes. They found shark's teeth and shells, human bones and pottery beads.
They called it "An American Stonehenge."
Nobody knows exactly what happened at the Circle. Human sacrifice? A home for astrologer kings? Did the Mayans paddle up to Florida and carve their signature into the stones? Or was it the Tequestas, the "People of the Glades"?
The circle keeps its secrets. It makes me wonder: What mysteries remain hidden beneath the high-rises and condos of downtown Miami?
When I started writing TCO, I wrote about the Miami Circle (as seen from the parking lot of the Sheraton hotel). I had to change the reference later, when the hotel morphed into another construction site.
Now you can find the Circle from the top floors of the swanky viceroy hotel. I spotted manatees shaped like exclamation marks, cruising below the Brickell bridge. Buzzards perched on balconies, high above the businessmen sipping cocktails by the pool.
I stopped at the Viceroy after visiting Prof. Goran's MFA class at the University of Miami. The students asked a slew of questions related to the craft of writing. They wanted to know how screenplays differ from novels, and how to create characters that speak and breathe "like real souls."
"It's all about listening and paying attention," I told them.
One of the grads (a whipsmart girl named Margaret) told me about her mom's love for sportscars and sculpture-like dogs. Margaret asked me to serve on her thesis committee (She's writing a YA novel.) Of course, I said yes.
After class, a reporter from Miami.com interviewed Prof. Goran and I for an article regarding the creative writing programs in South Florida. (I'll post it here soon). I snuck a peek at the reporter's notebook and noticed doodles of girls in profile. "I like to draw, too," I told her and she smiled.
I walked across the campus, thinking about how little things had changed. Same hand-shaped shadows on the grass. Same glue-and-ink smells in the bookstore. Maybe even the same loudmouthed macaws cutting across the sky, their tails dangling like streamers.
Later at the Viceroy, I sat by the pool, not far from the buzzards and businessmen. I peered down and searched for the Circle. All I saw was a bald patch in the grass.
I couldn't see it, but I knew it was there.