Summer has been on my mind today. It’s a little ironic because I am all about winter. Since the middle of October I have refused to dress for anything less than a blizzard. An uncomfortable decision during the North Shore’s balmier days, but I’m hoping the heavenly store-houses laid up with snow will appreciate my support.
Maybe winter will ease this itch. I have not been able to write, speak, wrestle it out– it’s burrowed mazes in my mind and I can’t catch it.
I spent most of my summer tooling around Upstate NY playing in the dirt; the flower girl for a landscaping company. I never changed my shorts and spent a lot of time fending off questions from senior citizens:
Yes, I am old enough to have a license.
It is hot enough for me, thank you.
Keep your foot stool, I can get in the truck just fine.
The fertilizer won’t kill your dog, but if you don’t keep it out of the flowers, I might.
And I settled into the routine. Days blended together. I worked a lot and, most of the time, alone.
It was refreshing, at first, when I fell behind on the petunias and PeePee would work with me on the flower route. A fifty year old black man, PeePee was an entertaining mix of crotchety and mischievous. He’d picked up his nickname because, as a tyke, he couldn’t hold it. He dubbed me SoulSista. I tried to correct him, at his age “SoulGranchild” was more accurate, but he pshawed me and SoulSista stuck.
We worked well together, bantering and bickering while we pulled weeds. He taught me how to heave an appropriately pained sigh as we passed the burnt lawns and introduced me to all the back roads in Saratoga. As far as I was concerned, PeePee and SoulSista made a good flower crew until the day I forgot my lunch. We made a pit-stop at my house and my mom came out to say hello. PeePee looked at me. Looked at my mom. Looked at my mom.
“That’s yo momma?”
Oh no he didn’t.
“We should probably come back here and have lunch with her.”
I suddenly didn’t mind being a solo act. Actually, it was a little appealing. PeePeeople piss me off.
Emily, the Lone Ranger. Sure she drives a 1998 One-Ton Chevy that has no air conditioning, but so what? Horses don’t have air conditioning either and she can roll the windows down to let the wind through her hair. And who needs a lasso when there’s a watering hose?
That was the end of my search for company. The answer was not there.
I was probably restless because by the end of the day I was a raisin, sun-drained of energy. I would shuffle home and ease into a chair, making plans to go for a run, watch a movie, make some dinner, write a novel, save some puppies...after I... rested.... my eyes...
I would come to and find my afternoon had been shiested by a rogue nap.
The months eased by. I cycled through work and sleep. PeePee never came over again. I couldn’t step on the cracks in sidewalks.
My memory snags on one day, late in June.
After work, rather than planning myself into a coma, I escaped. I went to my favorite beach on the Sacandaga. It was a little crowded and it smelled like dog poop. Good thing this isn’t a romantic memory.
The day was charming. The sky was close and terrifically blue. I pressed my hand against the canopy and pulled my palm away, stained with summer. When the light falls on the earth, golden and rich, when the shadows are gentle and the mountains straighten up and flirt with the clouds and the earth is a swell of color and harmony, I find myself.
As I fall into habits and routine, it slips my mind that I am crowded with secrets and decisions and grit. Myself in discord, in disguise. Meanwhile secrets rub together, wear themselves down, file their restraints thin. Then the facade falls away when I come in contact with harmony, with a perfect sky. There I'm not. Uncovered, I split open. Undone, the gore of things better left unsaid spills. Stripped of their mystery under the summer sun. Pathetic scraps, not secrets. My life, a dreary clutter. And then I know myself. All the cracks in the sidewalk.
Sometimes people say, like it’s a great thing, “I found myself and it was awesome!” I don’t get it. When I get the chance to shut my eyes and see the mirror, the facts are so brutal I bleed.
The itch, the restlessness. At the end of the day it cannot be soothed by company or chased out by seasons. I, perpetually ready for a change of scenery, move on.