It’s just a myth, a story told after the fact, like George Washington cutting down the cherry tree and being unable to tell a lie. Ponce de Leon was in search of other things (gold, land, power); it wasn’t until after he died that they said he had been trying to find the fountain of youth. But still, I like to think of him here, on the empty, echoing second floor of what was once the Hotel Alcazar wearing all of his armor, standing and staring in confusion and reverence at the humming water fountain. Someone would have to show him how it worked (“You just push this little handle back and the water comes out. Like this. See?”). The great explorer would remove one of his gloves, step forward and move the handle of the fountain, watch in amazement as the water arced into the air. He would laugh; he would remember, suddenly, being a boy, running barefoot through the village where he was born, someone chasing him, the sun hot on his head. How did that boy end up here, in this green hallway, half a world away? Outside, on the street below, a dog would bark. Ponce de Leon would feel the slow thump of his heart inside his armor. He would be astonished. He would bend his head and drink.
THE HOTEL ALCAZAR
IN ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA