As a child I used to watch commercials filled with people enjoying beers, barbecues and cottage country and feel like a confused kid with my face pressed up against the glass of the television set. I looked around in real life and wondered how everyone managed to thrive through the burning tans and blistering temperatures. Often I would stay inside, in my cool corner of the basement, reading comics and waiting for the hot-sticky to pass.
My dad would come home from work and ask, “Did you go outside today?”
Sometimes I did. Some days I ran through sprinklers, stepped gingerly into my friend’s backyard pool, ate hot dogs with ketchup and mustard and relish.
Most days, I waited for school to start up again.
Summertime meant being cornered, in the way, underfoot. My mother’s psychosis was as unpredictable as the path of a tornado, landing with whirling dervish imprecision to wipe out seasonal tranquillity in its wake. Longer days were less relaxing. My mother’s infamous impatience rose to impossible levels in summer, her lunacy lingering, casting shadows into sleepless nights.
During a heat wave when I was ten, I filled a toy canteen with cold water and kept it by my bed, hanging off a post. Throughout the night I poured water into my hand and splashed it across my face and neck, feeling like a cowboy mopping my brow. I remember I couldn't get out of bed, tiptoe down the hallway and get more water from the kitchen. My mother, it seemed, slept with one eye open like a Cyclopean sentinel and I would have to pass her room twice without disturbing her to make the trip worthwhile. Her gatekeeper door was always open. I continued slopping the liquid on myself even after it had grown lukewarm.
It's not that it was all bad, but just-enough bad. It's not that I walk along in glorious weather and feel apprehensive. I'm aware and appreciative of how gorgeous it is outside, the greenery a complete colour wheel, the brand-new smell of sky after summer rain. It's that I'm marked by these memories more in the hazy heat, they hang in the humidity, rising off my meridian points in odd moments.
Summer's parching heat. Tempers flare and car horns blare. What to do, what to do?
I walk through sprinklers, slowing down my pace, timing it with the oscillation so I can get maximum soaked. I do it even if the home-owners are out on their porches or weeding their lawns; it makes them smile. It cools me down and soothes the sores from summers past.
September will be here soon enough.