But in the car with the German air conditioner working in precision overtime, it ain't so bad as it is just a reminder, an awareness on the edge of cold rooms that sears the eyes. You expect the furnace blast any time a seal is cracked on a door or window. You wince without thinking, react with the flinching fear while you brace for impact. So even in the car, windows up and AC cranked spraying icy fog into the air, I see anything outside the darkly tinted windows and understand, deeply, that the world is on fire.
Children in the street of a section 8 'hood dash between the bus stop and their darkened but hot doorways, dripping with rapidly evaporating swimming pool condensate. They have this weekend left, then they go back to school, and they're packing activity into time with such density that the late summer temperature may be driven by that action alone: a dwarf star of summer fun and summer regret and unchained freedom stuffed into 72 hours.
Once, myself. The summer was the same one that had nothing but Police songs in the top 10, where each day was greeted by bright blue New Mexico desert sun and sky, and where my best days were marked by the smell of gasoline vaporizing in the bright sun from the streaked and red painted tanks of shiny dirtbikes and ATVs, a heady concoction of flammable air and flammable boyhood propelled by internal combustion and a total lack of care into crystal clear summer air. The smell of sand and dirt and gas and mesquite and sage, the sounds all high volume and tinged with ringing laughter and insults and yelps. The only time, the first and last time, when all the world didn't matter and my body was its leanest and brownest and most exuberant. One whole week all we did was dig out a sand dune, then cover it with a plywood plank camouflaged by dirt and dead mesquite to make a totally hidden fort that we lost, then found, then blew up with fire and propellants because who the fuck cared? Evey day was as big as the horizon, and what I wanted was just more of that sort of thing, and nothing else mattered.
That one first and last bright beautiful summer so very Boy, so very everything that makes a Boy a Boy, so gigantic and lovely, and when it faded?
At night the air would settle dust kicked up in the valley by the cars driving on dirt roads, a fog of fine sand falling, making sunsets that you, reader, would not believe were natural even if I showed them to you. The air would tick-tick-tick like a hot motor, cool air falling fast and steady, stars blinking into existence on the vast blue velvet canvas of the New Mexico sky. Every night, the end just as vast and amazing. And when the summer faded?
That last night before the trouble started?
The sky was just as astounding as it had been all my life, as it can be now if I stand in the same spot and blind myself to the world around me.
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