I’m alive, and therefore I sweat.
At a young age I learned to merge those two gross activities into an ipso-facto literary equation à la Descartes. I don’t fancy myself a philosopher, though, unless of course Descartes sweat. Which he probably did, because he was alive. Then, ipso facto, I am a philosopher. See how that works?
Regardless, there’s something about summer that turns me into a deep, perspiring thinker. Maybe it’s the freedom I have to mentally romp. In college, we’re bestowed an almost-four-month hiatus when it starts to get warm outside, during which we swap five-page papers for glossy internships or charming little mundane jobs or traveling. And in all of this, there is luxury; there is time.
The original frenemy, free time lends to both progressive and toxic thoughts. My marvelous mind can choose to be productive one day in, say, the thick of June — but it can spiral into existential wah-wah when August rolls around and the looming promise of school hangs in the air like an upcoming date with a really hot guy. Once you’re on the date, it’s great, but the car ride to the restaurant is sticky, sticky agony.
So how do we stop this sun-induced cacophony? George Harrison hated the way “Wah-Wah” turned out. Producer Phil Spector did his job and produced the shit out of it, and the result reeks of endless tinkering and mixing and adding. But there’s an inherent beauty to the song’s raw chord progression. The way it falls then picks up, kind of telling us to do the same. So when we shake off all the chachkis — the bad thoughts, the uncertainty, the tinkering — things sound pretty OK.
I get a little bit of bass added to my song when a stranger compliments my necklace and I let him. And the drums come when I tell him to have a great day. A groove starts when I inhale mango gelato with some high school friends, and we laugh at freshman-year roommates and Melania Trump’s marshmallow dress. The summer sweat goes away here, and I don’t miss a drop of it.
But some summers — some lucky, muggy, unsuspecting summers — you get a guitar solo. It happens at a music festival. You meet a guy (we’ll call mine Detroit Denzel) who also loves the Pixies and understands the beauty and essentiality of Mark Rothko. And you kiss him, to M83, possibly the most underwhelming indie-pop band of all time. But what the hell.
Kissing Detroit Denzel felt like a symphony, like every silly problem of mine melted away and all that was left was colors. After the festival, we kept seeing each other, and the city was ours to peel. There was so much to uncover: What makes Detroit tick? What made us tick? What was his favorite movie, his dog’s name, his biggest fear?
Everything was fresh. I knew it might end, like summer might end, but I didn’t care because the thought of having even a moment with him was endlessly more delicious than the comfort of inaction. And I think it was love, but that might be those simmering nights in the passenger seat of his car talking. So maybe it’s good to leave it all there, simmering, living.
One scorching day, DD and I were at a concert. The sun aggressively streamed into my eyes as I blabbered about my dreams and the future, diving into that summer-existential abyss again, and DD patiently listened. I solidified, unwittingly, the nature of our fling when I blurted out that I wanted to move to New York next summer, and possibly for the rest of my life. I expected him to freak, or to get mopey and shut down completely. Instead, he looked me dead in the eye, his brown ones tiny and steady as the fact of knowing that the seasons change, and he opened his bearded mouth:
“I dare you.”
And I started to sweat, and it felt great.