I have always oscillated between the
poles of responsibility and wildness. Lately I’ve swung hard toward
the latter. Why not? It’s a fiercely beautiful time of year, I’m
gainfully unemployed, and [redacted due to explicit content]. Thanks
to a baffling stroke of luck, I’ve been spending a lot of time in a
beautiful, quiet mansion, full of old books and shifting light. My
life feels like someone else’s. The word “charmed” comes to mind;
I don’t know that it ever has before.
In a perfect world, summers are always
idle. At no other time of year does boredom feel so luxurious, so
earned. Sure, studies in Very Important Journals say the
structure of the American schoolyear hurts test scores—students should have smaller breaks throughout the
year rather than three months of indolence, some contend. Screw that. For reasons that are purely sentimental, I
violently oppose the eradication of summer break. Children should spend the hottest part of the
year in languor and laziness, aimlessly riding bikes, prostrate
before window A/C units, chasing after ice cream trucks, etc., now
and forever amen.
I won’t budge on this. Give me fireflies and lawn
chairs and cheap domestic beer in styrofoam coolers and hot days that
stretch on and on, until the sun finally slips off the edge of the
horizon and into the cold cosmos. When it comes to doing summer
right, time—specifically, too much of it—is the key ingredient.
It’s the special sauce.
I have so much time I’m flush with the
stuff; I feel filthy rich. Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely,
alarmingly broke, but I’ve worked and lived in the world enough to
know that there is no greater luxury than time. When you’re toiling
for an hourly wage, it’s a kind of delicacy. I remember the old
calculations: This fancy sandwich is worth two hours spent in my cubicle
and What should I do with this precious Saturday, scour the thrift
stores for secondhand furniture or renew my driver’s license?
But now the old punch-in/punch-out
times have no meaning and the days simply bleed into one another and
I sleep or I don’t and none of the old rules apply. That’s what I
keep coming back to, what I love most ardently about this season:
none of the old rules apply. Men slouch in parking lots shirtless,
pretty women sweat through their foundation, teenagers hang out of
open-air jeeps in muscle shirts at intersections. The lines holding
our world in careful order wear away, laying bare the live
electricity that animates all. It’s entropy in a nuclear summer
Besides time, the other key ingredient
for a summer done right is excess. I think this is why America is so
good at summer, because we’re notoriously good at excess. FIREWORK
EMPORIUMS. GRILLING THINGS THAT WERE SO UNNATURALLY FATTENED IN LIFE
THEY COULDN’T WALK RIGHT. MOVIES WITH 200% MORE EXPLOSIONS AND GORE,
VIEWED IN ALMOST-EMPTY THEATERS WITH THE AIR CRANKED SO HIGH YOU NEED
Nature gets it. The tomatoes fatten
until they fall off the vine to rot uselessly, the birds are too full
to eat any more cicadas. The other side of abundance is waste. This
is a necessary component.
Because I am committed to doing summer
right, I have lapsed into full-blown hedonism. That means earthy red
wines, good cheeses with fresh crusts of bread, cigarettes, and
[redacted]. So much [redacted]. It has been precisely one decade
since my last summer romance, the one that blew the lid off the
place. This feels significant somehow, the symmetry of it, as though
I’ve moved to another tree-ring.
The same way a lover does, summer
always smells like a few definable things and then some mysterious,
particular, addictive thing of its own making—honeysuckle, cut
grass, and what? What is it?
The question will haunt me until retirement age, I swear. Just
now I took my dog on a walk around the block. It was 9:00 p.m. It was
that bluish-purplish time best called “twilight,” or “gloaming”
if we’re feeling poetic. In front of a squat shotgun house, a teenage
girl did tricks with an LED hula hoop that ricocheted colors through
the night, and another girl sat on the stoop smacking her braces and
scrolling on her phone. A kid on a Razor scooter gabbed elementary
school gossip to his power-walking mom. The muffled, bass-heavy sound
of a band practice rose from somebody’s house. I could get used to
this, is what I’m saying. I could stay suspended here forever.