“The summer wind, came blowin’ in from across the sea
It lingered there to touch your hair and walk with me
All summer long we sang a song and then we strolled that golden sand
Two sweethearts and the summer wind”
The last moment of sixth grade. The first moment of summer.
I step into the school courtyard. I remember the verdancy of the routinely green grass. I remember the brilliance of the routinely bright sun. I remember Sinatra’s accompaniment — shallowly. I remember summery lyrics and an idyllic melody.
Friends and I celebrate at a Subway. None of us love it; none go routinely. But it is new.
There I meet her. Freedom.
She had this worldliness to her. A sun-kissed glow and blonde beach curls that — while thought endemic to my home state of California — seemed to emanate from the ends of the Earth. The school year had sat me in the same six classrooms, by the same six windows, for 10 months. Her restive soul now promised everything that I had fancied as I gazed through the glass. More, she promised everything that my parochial mind could not yet imagine.
The rest of that summer evaporated under the brilliant sun. No other vivid memories. No hour, afternoon, day together could match the moment I met her. The lifetime she promised.
I was too young for her. We rode bikes, got lunch, saw friends. Childhood living is easy to do. But those dates soon lost their boyish charm. She needed more.
I am tempted to write that I neglected her. At that age I had to. Though the school bell had rung, my childhood’s want of independence, money, and will performed a changing of the guard.
These were my first summers with her: unconfined yet unfulfilled. I was infatuated. But I was not loyal to her then as I am now.
“Like painted kites, those days and nights, they went flyin’ by
The world was new beneath a blue umbrella sky
Then softer than a piper man one day it called to you
I lost you, I lost you to the summer wind”
As I matured, expectations arose. To spend summer unconfined was to squander opportunity. I got my first job after freshman year in high school.
The school year now taught me, taunted me with my confinement. It reversed its rote instruction, and ordered that I make the world my oyster. But while enrolled, how can we? After an adulterous night with some essay, I only desired the ease of her eyes, the warmth of her touch. But with my largest pittance a few weeks off for spring break, time away was tantamount to escapism — not the promised life. She would only return in June.
And here it was. There she appeared. Everywhere.
I swiftly took her hand. Things would be different now, I told her. My summer work would whisk us off to a new city. To a new life, just for a moment.
No. She evaporated under the brilliant sun. I had learned to cherish her. I earned money to take her out. But I had killed the carefree girl I loved.
I awoke every day in an empty bed. I clocked in at 9:00 a.m. I ate a wrap for lunch. I clocked out at 5:00 p.m. I went home.
Another changing of the guard. I had traded the dependence of childhood for the burden of responsibility. Where the sentinel had previously kept watch to protect me, he now enclosed me under threat of his musket — employment contracts and a poor reference.
For years I only glimpsed her ghost. Only in the brightest times.
“The autumn wind and the winter winds, they have come and gone
And still the days, those lonely days, they go on and on”
I continued to work summers despite my loss of her. If I could not hold her then and I cannot hold her now, I thought, I will hold her someday. Someday, with some illustrious career concluded, with some sum of money saved, with all responsibilities realized, we will settle in Arcadia.
The last moment of collegiate freshman year. The first moment of summer.
I step out onto Old Campus. I remember the verdancy of the routinely green grass. I remember the brilliance of the routinely bright sun. I remember the identical sentiments from seven years before.
I listen to “Summer Wind,” per tradition. More attentively now. I deliberate on the identity of Sinatra’s lover — how torn he sounds without her. That his Sisyphean struggle echoes mine does not yet enter my consciousness. No, I decide that she is a real woman — a summer fling that Ol’ Blue Eyes could not keep.
A familiar temptation. The ghost of my lover has taken human form a couple times. Though I lost that empty bed I never stayed in it. I clocked in at 9:00 a.m. But I felt something — vestiges of her.
If one human resurrected her in part, maybe more could resurrect her in full. Like Victor Frankenstein, I set about my experiment.
In past summers, I had only worked alone. Unusual, unscripted jobs widened the cage — fewer rules and precedents to obey. This summer, I was off to D.C. It was the hottest of collegiate summertime destinations.
Two of life’s three constants — location and vocation — had always shifted for summer. Now, I would find new people. Resettle in a small, transitory society — just for a moment.
It would not be everlasting, nor bucolic, nor truly foreign, nor fully free. It would not be Arcadia. But it would be different, dammit. Different enough to see her again. Different enough to restore our hope that the promised life exists — somewhere. That we will find it — someday.
D.C. was a phantasmagoria of sights and sounds. The district came alive — live shows, live music, live wires.
And so did she.
There was no grand spectacle where I felt her sudden hand. No night to recount or remember. She came alive not in the most dramatic of moments but in the most mundane.
I stepped out of the elevator. Where to get lunch? Those promising burger and taco joints were both too far from the office. With a sigh, I retreated to the only restaurant in the building that I knew — Subway. I did not love it, but I did go. And this next sub would designate it as routine. I ordered and sat down to eat.
There she appeared. Now, she took my hand. My daytime routine in D.C. was facetious. Insipid. “But it is new,” she beamed.
We made a new life there, just for a moment — and we will make another.
“And guess who sighs his lullabies through nights that never end
My fickle friend, the summer wind”