Three-plus miles. Eighty-plus degrees. Hot and sweaty in the best possible way. Home to a shower of lavender and well water.
It is almost sunset and, cleanliness aside, I can’t resist the urge to go back outside, to squeeze an ounce or two more out of this day that is just a little longer than the day before, this day that is teasing me toward summer. The breeze is beginning to pick up in the branch. It ripples through the leaves in the top of the sycamore tree like an old man ruffling his grandson’s hair.
The scent of soap, the angle of the sun, the riff of air across my bare arms ignite a Roman candle of memories. Long day in the front yard with cousins, dirt and grass stains washed away in a bathtub tinctured with Tide to ward off impetigo, front porch in pajamas listening to the grown-ups tell stories. Long day at church camp, little kid smells washed away by water so cold it makes you dance, church service followed by a trip to the concession stand for Milk Duds and a strange concoction of Coke and grape and orange Fanta we called a Suicide. Long day at the beach, sand and sweat washed away by sulfur-scented water from a rusty showerhead, barefoot stroll under a full moon.
I stand still for a moment. Let the memories wash over me. Like the water in the bathtub, the water from the showerhead, the waves of the ocean. I am encapsulated in water and memory. In time.
I was eight years old when I first experienced anticipation. First understood what it meant to know that something pleasurable was coming and feel the emotion ahead of time.
Fourth grade at Mattie Lively. My teacher, Elizabeth Curlin, had made a bulletin board for the month of May that consisted of one single daisy. The center was the size of a steering wheel and it had 31 petals, each one numbered and attached to the center by a single staple. First thing every morning the petal corresponding to that day on the calendar was plucked off by a lucky student chosen by Mrs. Curlin.
As the month progressed the daisy grew more and more pitiful. We, conversely, grew more and more enthusiastic. The approach of summer, with its promise of Popsicles, Push Ups, and playing under the water hose, made even the best-behaved of us loud and rambunctious. Anticipation is a powerful drug.
And in the stillness, I feel it rising even now. Anticipation.
I am tasting tomatoes that have not yet appeared on the vine and sweet corn that has not yet appeared on the stalk. I am watching my legs and arms turn a warmer shade of pink. I am hearing waves crash so loudly that conversation is impossible.
Across the field the sun has stained the sky bright pink, deep violet. It is trembling in those last few moments before it disappears for the night. Tomorrow it will stay a little longer. Tomorrow summer will be one day closer. I can hardly wait.