I think the polar vortex was what really, completely sealed me into some hypnotically comfortable ruts. I remember saying to a friend that I was ready for some disruption, like the thawing of spring—even though it punishes me with pollen allergies and ramps into the sticky season I like even less.
It felt like something had to shift externally, since, in Michigan, the opposite season always feels impossible. Though I love winter, I wanted to be pushed into remembering different postures and rhythms. Then, I was motivated to notice the value of summer’s reversals. This is me following through:
1. I sweat a lot, and I hate it. It’s like I wake up and start leaking. One of my favorite writers, Hanif Adburraqib, remarks that in summer “sweat becomes romantic because it will happen whether or not I want it to.” He’s talking about crushes, and how the summer season feels almost synonymous with a playful and electric longing. But I like the assertion that accepting an inevitable discomfort is romantic, and I hope it can apply to being alone too. Because I have decided to feel romantic by myself, waking up on top of my sheets, or walking to the bus stop. My thighs are infatuated with each other every time I cross and uncross my legs. My forehead is blushing when I cook inside an already stuffy kitchen. I wear my heart in my armpits.
2. Around here, you can’t count on places having A/C. Most public places do—it’s just uncertain enough to feel like a gift across every threshold. So I carry around the same thin grey cardigan even on the hottest days. It’s underwear-thin really. It’s useless in any other season. There are little holes in the sleeves and shoulders from years of this practical application. It’s my Layer. I whip it out when I get chilled just sitting around, or drape it over my legs if I regret wearing shorts for a bit. I’m constantly over-anticipating my comfort and still am terrible at preparing for it. A thin sweater is a margin of control.
3. I try to watch more movies. They’re great at home with my housemates, but I try to Go To The Movies too. The theater is cool (that grey sweater tied around my waist) and a sweet cave away from the searing expanse of blue sky and brightness outside. Summer used to make me feel restless. Now, it’s like the heat gives an excuse to give in and to choose activities that allow melting.
4. Ice cream makes more sense. I finish a run at the bodega a block past my driveway and, red and dripping, buy a single creamsicle. I think about evening cross country practices all the way back in middle school: how we hobbled back as the sun went down, and how the coaches or parents always had an open box of popsicles ready. Those treats became ways to play with each other, lightsabers or microphones. It might be the only reason I knew I wanted one now.
5. In winter, there’s too much darkness to obey it. In summer, I can actually rise and retire a step behind the sun. But natural feels unnatural when, the rest of the year, I’m so used to pushing into darkness. Once or twice, in summer’s first weeks, I wake up before my alarm, and before I see a clock, I’m convinced I’ve slept through it well into the work day. I’m astonished how bright it can be before I’ve gotten started at all.
6. Everyone’s doing their own thing. I remember in high school, responsibilities like jobs seemed to just beat out drivers licenses by a year or two, so I never experienced that open, mobile freedom gaping for adventures promised in teen movies. Or I didn’t know what to do with it when I had it. I really wanted that skate park or beach or ice cream shop where everyone met up in lieu of school, but if you were like me, most everyone got left alone to their own worlds, to mowing lawns and babysitting.
Or at least this used to be a shift. It’s a trite and basic thing for an ‘18 grad to observe, but when Fall rolled in and I wasn’t in college, I realized how much social scaffolding I took for granted, between meals and clubs and classes and a campus-sized world. Until this spring, I felt myself eyeing too closely all the new intentionalities of getting together with friends and keeping busy on what I love to do. By now, I’ve dug comfortable ruts again. In this way, post-grad is one endless summer, ha ha.
“Con · ces · sion:
a thing that is granted, especially in response to demands;
a thing conceded.”
And to concede:
“admit that something is true or valid after first denying or resisting it.”
I want to try to make these into the other kind of ‘concession,’ the one with a stand that I’d approach as a kid, in the cool movie theater, at the public pool, or my brother’s baseball games. A treat.