It’s coming. I can feel the dread of the inevitable in my hair and right behind my eyes and all over my skin: all of the places that will get hit the hardest.
The next 2 and a half months will be down time for me. No way around it. I’ll be unfocused and unproductive and spacey and erratic and just generally not with it: walking around in a sticky, steaming, grass-stinking haze.
Here’s how a typical summer day goes for a typical Summer Grinch like me:
You wake up at six in the morning to a fistful of sunshine in your face. Four hours of hard-won sleep have left you ill prepared for this attack. The sheet is completely wrapped around you and bonded to you by sweat. All you hear is the desperate grinding of the air conditioner. The air it’s blowing makes you feel clammy and cold, what with the sweaty sheet situation and all, but if you move away from it the heat will make you feel worse. So you lay there and try to will yourself to fall back asleep, knowing full well that you’ve never been able to do this. “Just one hour more,” you think hopefully, “just enough to make me feel OK.” But of course it doesn’t happen, and 30 minutes later you give up and drag yourself out of bed, into the heat, and try to be optimistic and ignore that awful raw feeling behind your eyes.
You glance around your apartment. The rest of the year, you think you keep a pretty tidy home. You vacuum and Swiffer at least once a week, you don’t leave crap lying around. But in the unforgiving summer light it becomes very clear that you basically live in a crack den maintained by a college fraternity. A thick layer of dust and cat hair practically pulses under the light. There is more dirt in captivity on your kitchen floor than there is out roaming free in the wild. You are probably mentally ill. A mentally sound person would never let his crack den get so filthy.
A sunny day in the fall or winter is a treat. It’s the pleasure of brightness and warmth with all of the harsh bits filtered out. A sunny day in the summer is an unfiltered American Spirit raping your throat with a grapefruit spoon. And everybody you’re with keeps saying, “These are so much purer than shitty Marlboros. Those aren’t even real cigarettes; they’re mostly filler,” and you smile and nod because they seem so adamant, but deep down all you want is a nice weak-ass Marlboro Light because purer and better aren’t synonyms.
So you walk into the bathroom to get ready, and you look in the mirror and try to convince yourself that the dark circles under your eyes aren’t so bad this morning, and you rub some foundation in extra hard, and you shower and get dressed and head out the door to meet up with some friends who have somehow talked you into doing something outside. (You know, where the sun is. That outside.)
These are the same friends who agreed with you when you said you didn’t like hot weather. But without fail, the very first hot weekend in July one of them will call you up all excited and tell you you’re going on a picnic or something.
“It’s gonna be like 400 degrees!” he or she will gleefully tell you. “We’re going to have it on this big black asphalt platform on top of an active volcano that’s directly under a hole in the ozone! And everyone’s going to have to lift shit and do copious amounts of strenuous activity! It’s gonna be awesome!”
And you go. You love your friends and want to spend time with them, and you need to get out of the house, so you go. And the humidity is on you like a rash the second you walk out the door, and your hair is a 4-inch tall bouffant of wiry cotton candy.
And it’s actually closer to 500 degrees. And you can smell everything within a 200-foot radius. Everything.
You try to make conversation, but you’re just not very fun to talk to right now. The rest of the year you fancy yourself pretty witty and insightful and good at listening. But right now every exchange is a trial to be endured.
You look around you, and everybody’s having the time of their lives. Playing basketball, riding bikes, eating ice cream, making out, sunbathing.
There’s a group of pale goth kids (emo kids?) laughing and excitedly running through a fountain to your left. So much for craving the darkness.
Then a little to your right you’re pretty sure you can see Barack Obama and Glen Beck playing volleyball. Gore Vidal and Miley Cyrus are toasting marshmallows over a camp fire and cheering them on.
The heat has brought them all together, every last one. They’re all out there in a giant summer bliss festival, and the only Other left in the whole wide world is the lonely Summer Grinch.
And at this moment, it becomes clear to your low-functioning, sleep-deprived mind that global warming is not the result of oven cleaner or cow flatulence, but of all of these people willing it to be hotter with all their might. Even that one environmentalist dude you used to work with who was always lecturing people about climate change is over there in a pair of Bermuda shorts snagging a marshmallow from Miley and Gore with a big carefree grin on his face. For all that somber proselytizing, he loves the heat just as much as the rest of them.
You hate them all. You hate the media, pop stars, Congress, Europe. You hate the babies who aren’t even conceived yet.
Picnic ends, and you drag your over-cooked carcass home. The apartment’s too hot, so you drink too much and lay on the sofa watching music videos on YouTube and wish you could enjoy them half as much as you do the other 9 months of the year.
It’s time to go to bed, but there’s no way you’re going to fall asleep without a Melatonin. But you don’t want to take a Melatonin because it’ll make you feel awful in the morning. So you lay there miserable for two hours and then end up taking a Melatonin anyway.
And then you wake up the next day and it’s the exact same crap, except a little bit worse because the sleepiness and the ill will and the despair accrue and compound and proliferate until that first hopeful, soothing fall breeze that makes contact with your skin is so transcendent and unbelievable that the only comparable experience is falling in love for the first time when you were a kid.