Some days, I walk around my life like I’m listening to an NPR piece. Every sound, every clink of the keys in the bowl, every woosh of a car going by, motivates your next thought. And it works with sight, too. The sun highlighting chinks in a dirty windowsill reminds you of waking up in a car 15 years ago. You get it. Lately I’ve been doing this in the context of the most inescapable thing about now: Summer.
The sun fills up the car with light on the way to work and suddenly I’m in the passenger seat, my mom’s pointy knees poking out behind the steering wheel under taut, tan skin. She smells like hairspray or lipstick and the windows are down because the A/C never worked in this damn thing anyway. She is beautiful and strange and wearing jean shorts. We’re listening to Tom Petty driving to a clothing expo. My brother and I will chase each other through the racks of fabrics, hiding quietly against the cool metal until it’s time to go get Happy Meals. We’re very close to collecting all of the Beanie Babies.
Back in my car, a song that sounds like Pearl Jam (but ends up being Matchbox 20?) comes on the radio. Now I’m looking at the giant silver boom box on our deck. The wood is bare — it doesn’t have carpeting or an awning over it yet. My dad, skin yellow-brown and freckly, ties a bandanna around his curly hair and pushes the mower in an arbitrary yard. It could be anywhere, it doesn’t matter. He always smells like sweat and is simultaneously grilling. He lets me take a drink of his cold, silver Coors. It tastes like gasoline smells. There will be hot dogs, and they will have bacon on them.
Then I’m upside down, the grass swaying below me as I swing alone, waiting, the blood filling up my eyes. My left foot is stuck in the grooved black plastic of a playground hand ring and I wonder if I’ll die here, my neighbors and family completely unaware of my absence until it’s tragically too late. It’s quiet and strange: How can I be the only person outside in all of these interlocking backyards? Don’t people live in packs for a reason? A neighbor finally comes out, joking to me in the language of a “Peanuts” adult. He grips me around the waist, takes off my shoe and lets me plop to the ground.
When does your butt stop sticking to plastic? It’s never, even if you’re not 8 years old. I peel myself off of the green plastic covering my Nunnie’s porch glider and go inside. I lay on her brown carpet, the same as I have in my apartment now, and talk into the fan, the same as I do in my apartment now. My brother comes to get me so we can catch toads in the rocks in her backyard before Nunnie calls us to the backdoor to give us meatballs on forks.
I’m back at my kitchen table, looking across at Jamie, eating cheese and crackers feeling the sun bleed through the blinds. We hear the knock of a hammer on wood above us — they’ve been doing construction on the roof for weeks. We go back to our conversation about which one of us is less annoying, at our table, in our apartment. Or are we in the woods by the creek? That knocking? It’s just the sound of a new tree fort being built. Club 2000. It’s supposed to be the biggest one yet.