by Deirdre Flood
It’s gotta be this weather. You know what I mean.
“Summer was (…) sleeping on the back porch in cots, (…) but most of all, summer was Dill.”
There’s something about soft wind against flannel sleeves. That brings me here.
And honestly, it always has.
Because winter was school. Winter was a place with no time.
No time for parachutes molded from napkins,
for Red-Light Green-Light at the bus stop,
Maybe it’s like the pacific, maybe it has no memory.
Winter wasn’t for us.
It was for everyone else.
Even when I was a kid. Rockland was a weekend thing, a summer thing. We never leaned on those red bars in the jungle gym in December.
There were phone calls.
The ‘hows it going, it’s been so long I feel lost but I can’t tell you that cause you’ll think I’m crazy.’
But summer… that was different.
I always found you in summer even if only for a short while.
And now I’m fucked. Cause every summer.
This is it.
Every summer will smell, and feel, and look, (god, I almost said taste, but that might be weird.) like…. The ones that were ours.
Not just ours, but Niamhy’s and Theresa’s and Eddie’s, and Melissa’s.
But it was different cause they lived in winter too.
You were P.F. Fliers and Wiffle Ball bats.
Sitting on concrete outside the corner store with melted ice cream.
You were hiding in bug-infested lots behind the gas station.
I swear, I took one step into that urban forest and my entire leg was engulfed in some modern day quick sand.
Anything to win a game of Manhunt, even if it means losing your limbs in a swamp.
And… I guess, we tried, we tried to do what all writers after Eliot tried to do.
To say “Fuck you nature. ‘April is the cruel one’ we can live in the desolate… the wasteland.”
But we couldn’t.
Everyday since March we babbled shit at each other… and September’s first chills shattered…
So …we waited… and the snow made our conversations short.
And I had never seen you in a coat before.
And we can’t smoke inside at night,
but the stoop is so frozen now.
And the roof feels unreachable.
And it just. isn’t. spring…
In Just… winter.
When we fucked up. I fucked up.
But it was also the strangeness. The nothingness. The ‘I’ve never seen you breathe cold air before.’
You know, and I guess those movies and books created parts of summer we never knew.
Like tire swings
street fairs where neighbors know your names,
and night games that weren’t lit up by stadium lights.
And Browers, Flowers.
Whatever his name is under the porch.
We were those city kids, who knew every game that could be played within the confines of a stoop.
Where Parking-lot playgrounds were baseball diamonds.
And summer was you.
Parts of summer we never knew, fictional summers in books we’d read in January waiting for those May embers.
But you knew. You knew them. And they never saw winter either.
Because in The Sandlot Scotty Smalls moves in the last week of school.
And in It Ben stumbles into the Barrens to meet Stuttering Bill after the school bell rang for the last time. In June.
Those characters that get to be twelve forever. And never know the cold. It’s almost as if you were one of them. This perfect frostless character who knew only June. Who was never too tired for a game.
But maybe we read too much, too much Ginsberg, too much King, and every day was a “I’m with you in Rockland” day. Even in the cold, especially in the cold.
And every year you leave for college.
Because like Dill. You leave in August. And even when you didn’t really.
Because winter was something I couldn’t know with you.
Because it’s harder to laugh in cold air.
Because it’s harder. And darker, and older.
The winter forgets.
You have to forget. Like Demeter.
Ripping up earth for half the year
Screaming for it to come back For
to come back with sun light and veiny leaves
she’ll tear at roots and crooked branches
Cursing the cold air
Cause it’s too much
So you have to forget…
Covering your ears like Stan, reciting birds so the nightmares can’t get in.
“Robins! Grey Egrets! Loons! Scarlet Tangers!”
because what else can you do.
What else can you do? But wait and pretend that the sun won’t leave so early,
That the crickets will return. That “you can dodge it on your way back man.”
And even in December
The Sandlot will always be occupied.
Unlike the hideouts we claimed.
The Little Giants will always win. Every time I watch it.
Unlike the games we continuously lost.
E.T. will always wake up.
Unlike those of us who didn’t.
It’s safer with them.
I don’t lose them.
Photo Credit: Lina Reyes