Boyhood Bravery || Chapter Three
Summer heat reaches an apex and the boys find a way to cool off. An injury cracks Nick’s brave facade. Griffin feels alone. Nick struggles with visiting family. Something feels oddly familiar to Griffin.
When the boys are six, summer is a three month long period of unbearable heat. Even the children, who are unnaturally resilient, hunch like panting dogs in any morsel of shadow they can find. It is a heat that turns the concrete into a hot plate that burns the bottoms of bare feet, that melts an ice pop before half of it can be eaten, that has the grass standing still, like even it is too heat-fatigued to move. Staring long enough at anything will play tricks on your mind, making the heat tangible and create illusions of heat wavered images. Loose t-shirts cling to their backs and their hair is shades darker from being sweat soaked, wrapping around their heads like sweaters and frying their brains.
It’s Justin, who is twelve at the time, who convinces their father to let them go down to the local river. At first they go as a family, loading up the car with lawn chairs and beach blankets. They’d squeeze in, warm skin sticking together as they chattered excitedly, the smell of sunscreen tickling nostrils. They’d come back and fall asleep during the drive, Griffin’s head on Travis’s damp shoulder.
By the time summer is half over though, the river is no longer a fun day vacation to look forward to, rather it’s a last ditch effort to survive the baking heat. It’s almost a daily escape. The day starts with Nick, knocking on their door as soon as the sun is up, everyone dressed in shorts and shirts they will soon ditch, it’s four bikes of varying size, they lug lunch boxes packed with ice and bottles of water, and if they are lucky, coke. Someone packs them sandwiches, so they don’t have to cycle home for lunch. They only sometimes remember the sunscreen, and often come home with sore, burnt skin that eventually gives way to tans, pausing just above the knee and resuming at their waists.