Celebrating summer is not some elegantly adolescent construct, but framing its end as a comedown certainly is. It’s true, the season offers an invariable brand of magic. People shed their garments and their inhibitions follow suit. So penetrating is every whiff of every moment, each one a memory in the making. It’s a time for belief, for open-heartedness, for discovery. But when the sun’s energy lifts and its rosiness fades, the glow dies and sloughs from our cheekbones and the virgin palette beneath is clean and ready and willing to begin again.
You can feel the transition. The shift had begun by the time we were sitting on that curb, dizzy from dreaming and guilty with gratification. You sighed the summer out of your chest as your heels scraped forward on the uneven pavement, for half a moment hovering, firmly inhabiting the pursuant pleasure of a season passed, but then the soles gave way to the slippery slope and down they went. People shuffled along, flip flops or fall boots never breaking contact with the pavement, arms clinging close to skin brushing away the chill, baring toothy grins fuzzy with liquor. The streets were emptier in the absence of humidity, that dense air always a conductor for our former conduct. The early hours of morning descended like a fog anyway. You dug the balls of your hands into the dirt behind us, and tossed your head back recklessly before straightening your shoulders tall and leaning against me, like your story could be told through posture.
Your head on my shoulder, you wiped the dirt off on your shorts, but they were still caked with indulgence and exhaustion. While the earth absorbed the season’s nourishment, it wore through us. Manicured lawns and hangnails; trimmed flowerbeds and split ends; birds gliding and diving from all heights and dreams somehow suspended; fountains gushing with life and hearts slowly breaking. Our souls were so, so swollen with the heat, suffocated by the humidity, and now there is much more room for them to grow.
We sat undisturbed by the residual churning of a summer in decay. Your bare knees now hugged against your chest, you ran your fingers over your skin, sinewy and flush but unexpectedly cool to the touch, goose bumps rising, like a new self waiting to break through. You looked amused, smiling at the change. The air smelled cold, but you said it just smelled new.
That new air carried a strange sound; the chatter quieter and hurried as you hummed a new song over the echo. Against an updated melody this night and these memories and those people almost seem to glow with a too-healthy dose of self-aggrandizing confidence. Like they don’t realize we’re all about to start anew. You hug a sweater to your body and watch, careful not to miss anything. These days, each moment is so certain that it will be the one to anticipate an era about to end. Scars and makeup stains and whispers, tears and coups and comedowns – they lose all context to such mythologizing, like they could have never happened at all. But our histories are each modified from their original versions for time and content, formatted to fit this screen. That way we’ll never wish it were any different. We’ll still remain bound by the unbridled highs that brought us all here, together. You put your head back on my shoulder and kept humming.
The sun always rises more quickly than we expect, and this morning its pattern is subtly more horizontal, dipping below the buildings as its trajectory lets us all see everything in a new, natural light. The haze and humidity has dissipated; all that blinded us is now exposed.
So wrap your body back up and take inventory. What is left to cover? What bits and pieces are left strewn across summer? The whole world is in decay, so it stands to reason that we are too. The leaves themselves crunch like bones beneath our boots as we walk home, shattering across the sidewalk, unrecognizable bits of the whole.
And with the leaves now all gone, we can turn a new anything over.