Providence's Alternative Source!

Summer's gone, and it's about time


Braked at the light at Memorial and Westminster on a sweltering afternoon some weeks ago, I studied the parade of barely dressed pedestrians traversing the Providence intersection. Strangers to me, every last one, I thought crossly -- must I see them walking around half-naked? At that moment, the radio broke in on my thoughts: "It's getting hot in here," sang Nelly, helpfully, "so take off all your clothes." A chorus of women brightly agreed, "I am getting so hot I want to take my clothes off!"

I wanted only to scream. What clothes? No one is wearing any clothes! Men in torn and twisted T-shirts, looking like inexpertly bandaged casualties of a post-apocalyptic eventuality; women in the merest, the sheerest dishabille, the courtesan conceit extending even to their footwear: mules, designed backless so that one might kick them off mid-air while leaping recklessly into bed. Honestly, now that bra and bandanna suffice for "dressed," what possible thrill could remain to the strip tease of seduction? We are all as prisoners of a Gilligan's Island, where the reigning tatterdemalion imperative visits upon every social exchange a forced, false intimacy from which there's no escape.

Can I say this? I hate summer and its wake, and naked strangers are just the beginning. Salmonella picnics on bacterial beaches; riotous neighbors exacerbating heat-induced insomnia, with its scientifically proven aftermath of inattention and car wrecks; tick bites leading to a month of meds or a lifetime of Lyme; mosquito bites leading straight to death; demented rangers torching what wilderness has managed to escape the disastrous natural fires; and every other URL containing the phrase "missing girl." Need I go on?

I know, I know -- it sounds so promising, so fleeting, in May: sand, sandals, open windows, sunsets at nine, lay-about time with loved ones. But by August, the searing sun spotlights the infernal truth: endless summer indeed. The windows stick in the humidity. The sun never sets. Forget love -- one's a crowd. My flip-flop broke, I cut my foot, bringing another seasonal bonus: tetanus.

Summer blows in each year with flirtatious bonhomie -- shaking cocktails, firing up the grill, keeping us awake nights with tales of carousals to come. But like a houseguest from Hitchcock, he's all wrong, and he stays too long. He spikes our drinks, we're felled by lassitude; denied sleep and shade, we lose track of everything. Suddenly, it's August everlasting, and from our delirium we recognize our guest at last -- Satan!

Then in the nick of time, the heralds of our salvation are suddenly everywhere underfoot: acorns, harbingers of divine exorcism. We glance up from sidewalks strewn with them to see the weakened sun sinking to his knees. It's time to turn the calendar at last. It's time to sweep away the sand. I want a bath and then an indoor dinner. I want to want a sweater. I want a pale, silvery moon with an implicative ring around it: let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Issue Date: September 27 - October 3, 2002