So… We’re back and kicking off 2012 with a whole new series, all about summer. Our first piece comes from our new Stilts member, Tim McGuire.
There are always signs that you have come. The middle knuckle of my left hand and the skin behind my right knee inexplicably flare up with dermatitis. The heat makes my roommate and I snap at each other like dogs at flies, the ensuing arguments of which I cannot win because my roommate is really my mother. I begin wearing football shorts to restaurants, shorts that once belonged to my best friend’s ex-boyfriend and have somehow ended up in my chest of drawers. And despite my best efforts, the extra grease in my hair insists on gelling my fringe into its natural cowlick. These are the hideous symptoms of my least favourite season.
Oh, summer. You are a jerk.
In my earliest memories of you, I am sitting inside the house at my own pool party, watching the other kids bomb dive into my swimming pool. I am in my togs, waiting for my sunscreen to dry, because my mother is telling me that if I don’t it’ll wash off and I’ll end up with melanoma. Through the window, I see Rowan Leat swim two entire laps underwater. My guests applaud. Rowan Leat grins. I hate Rowan Leat. I only invited him and his friends to make it a boy-girl party. If this were my dream party, I would have only invited girls. At my dream party, I would be the one to swim two entire laps underwater. And I wouldn’t have to wait fifteen minutes for my sunscreen to dry to do it.
You may not have given me melanoma, but you’ve never let me tan, either. I’ve put in twenty plus years in the sunburnt country, in the sunshine state no less, and a mole on my butt is the most I have to show for it. I remember being thirteen, and my friends’ younger siblings were already browner than I was. They called me Ghostface. That rub-on tan I tried was useless; except for the time I doused myself in it so I could attend a costume party as Aladdin. I can’t wear pastel colours, you know. One of my favourite shirts is a pastel yellow, and it makes my skin look like off-milk. I can’t wear it out. You need to be tanned to pull of pastels. You need to be tanned to fit in at the Gold Coast and not look like the Bundy Rum bear. What I’m trying to say is: I’m very, very pale, and would you please just give me a bit of colour? No. You won’t. Because you’re a jerk.
I’ve never had a summer romance. I had a summer break up, once. It’s the only relationship I’ve ever been in and it ended as soon as we changed the calendar over to December. I don’t believe in coincidences. That was just mean. You knew how lonely I was. Please don’t try and pretend that you were doing me a favour, that you were sparing me from my fear of other people’s sweat. I could have handled it.
I realise that it would be irrational to blame you for the fact that the air-conditioning in my car does not work, so I won’t. If my car were a person, it would be old enough to have babies. I am actually very grateful that the air-conditioning is the only part of it that needs repair. What I resent is how hot the wind gets, like a fan-forced oven, so that there’s no way of keeping cool. I have had so many near-accidents driving in January, when I can’t bear to touch the steering wheel because it’s so hot, or when I’ve accidentally left my sunglasses on the dash and they burn raccoon-shapes into my face when I put them on. Why can’t you be more like Winter? Why can’t you be cool?
You are here again, but things are going to be different this time. True, the dermatitis has already started, but my doctor has prescribed a cream and I’ve nearly gotten it under control. I’m shaving my head, too, so the greasy cowlick can lie forever on the black and white tiles of my barber’s floor for all I care. I won’t need the footy shorts this year, either, or have to worry about walking in on my mother applying her refrigerated, green facemask to ward off the heat. I am going north, north! North of the equator. North of Rowan fucking Leat. I’m going to the other side of the world, where it’s winter in February.
I don’t even care that where I’m going is Vietnam, and that it’s the dry season, and that my uncle laughed when I asked if I’d need a jumper. You’re not going to be there and that’s good enough for me.