There is always that cool spot of sand under your deck chair which you can dig your hands into when they are too hot from holding your book up in the sun. You can dig down through the sand, farther and farther, until you hit that layer which feels wet and compact and almost solid. It feels like those cross-sections of the Earth’s layers from your 7th grade biology textbook, or what would happen if you reached into someone’s chest and started rooting around in the wet darkness underneath.
Sometimes, when your skin is warm enough, you let someone’s hands slip underneath and grab a hold of something. You are sweating in your bathing suit and the sun won’t stop looking at you from every angle in the sky, and every drop of human condensation on your body reflects the words “Why not?” They undo a string, it falls to the ground, and things happen. When it’s hot like that, you are always just a few flimsy pieces of cloth away from being with someone.
And because, why not, it’s hot anyway, you sleep outside. The two of you let what would have otherwise been a hasty sleep to an uncomfortable morning-after become something that lasts all night. You unwind all of the tension you had built up in those first heady moments by talking, pointing at stars, holding hands even though you usually reserve that for someone whose affections you were still in the process of courting. In the summer, there are no pretenses. There is only this sunny day, that beer, this good spot on the beach. Take it while you can, because soon it will be cold again.
Everything runs to your head. The white wine floating in the increasingly-watery bucket of ice, the feeling of someone’s hand on the small of your back, the sound of that merengue music you never usually like. It’s all a vacation, even when it’s not, and things are possible because you are stripped of all the regular concerns and insecurities you bundle yourself up with in fall. Here, you are bare skin and complete openness. Something will happen because you want it to.
But then, as you knew it would (even if you didn’t want to admit it), it gets cold. It starts to feel like you are underdressed when you go out at night with your arms uncovered. You get that feeling of cold-weather embarrassment, like you should be home doing something productive and meaningful, instead of lingering outside waiting for something to find you. And those hands that were only so happy to touch you when you were just one pull of a string away have evaporated like the lotion off of your bare stomach. They were interested in the convenience and the excitement of summer, not the labored expectations of colder weather.
They wanted to lie next to you, but not to keep you warm.
And you ask yourself if you ever really did fall in love, or if it was just that feeling that you always get around summer, ever since you were a little kid. Now, you no longer have the ice cream truck to chase and the school bus to drop you off that one last time, so maybe you look for that marked feeling of “summer” in other places, in other people. “Summer” could be that fling, that extra dance, that jumbo margarita, that thing you wouldn’t otherwise permit yourself to do in more reasonable weather. Part of you still needs to break free when the days get long and warm, and maybe you need to do it even in ways that will prove just as untenable as the pause in the school year. Maybe you knew that they would not stay around, but maybe that’s what you wanted.
Because somewhere, you knew all along that they weren’t quite right, that only “Summer You” could ever really love them.