A Fading Slice Of Pastel Summer Sky
Sometimes a memory can capture the essence of life itself, like a symphony of all the right moments, swirling through the mind like the perfect soundtrack, pausing at the best places, then leaping somewhere like the most unexpected parts of a song that are both familiar and new at the same time.
I’m swept up and flowing down the road that goes under the train bridge, not driving, and not exact flying, but moving somehow, smoothly under the iron bridge with the big rounded rivets along the bottom, dropping quickly into the town, the sparkling, glinting noontime lake and out in front with the flowery, marigold welcome sign.
That lake breeze, an old friend, hits me in the face; all at once the moisture is thick like an outdoor humidifier aimed at newcomers, hinted with organic smells like algae and moss, plus that water smell which is mixed with a touch of boat fuel. The fuel smell floats from the boats with their coming and going sounds, cars moving here and there, passing in and out of the town. And there’s an inexplicable sense of that something great is about to happen. The possibility is palpable.
Diary Queen is right down the road to the right, across from the rusted but still productive metal smelting plant, the one that the locals have long since learned to ignore, and if you follow straight you’ll roll past the lake and the tennis courts. You’d probably see people rollerblading and ski boats coming in and out of view as they pull into their docks, in those houses at the edge of the lake — the ones that everyone would die to live in, or at least know someone who does, just to get invited to a barbecue so you could sit at the edge of the lake and hear those sounds, the laughter and the motors, out there, where people are getting up on wakeboards for the first time and kids are flying off yellow banana tubes. The dads and moms that drive the boats always seem to know exactly how to spin the kids on the tubes, just fast enough that it’s scary as hell, but you’ll know, in the back of your mind, you’re also quite safe.
And we might all go to the movies later, when the sun starts to set over the lake. Or we might go out of town to that amusement park that is a couple hours away. The one where you might meet someone from another town, a small one like yours, with most of the same things, and you might make out in one of the covered, darkened lines for a rollercoaster, and you might keep in touch for a while but then life happens and you’ll go back to school.
There would be an eighties soundtrack playing as I swoop through a town like this, fingers flying over one of those split electric guitars, one hand down low so the sound is super high, like an angry mandolin, and the other hand moving so fast, like a fan, you almost can’t see it, with a quick slide up and down the frets when you’re done, just for emphasis.
Or maybe the music is Will Smith’s Summertime, with the top down and the Alpine speakers blasting, and I’d be in a red 1968 mustang, driving slow and deliberate through town, even though I started out by flying or hovering through the tunnel, over past the lake.
Before the day ends, I’d cruise up the main, two lane country highway, out past the college, to the road where a familiar house sat nestled in the trees, near the field where an impromptu go-cart race track was built in the dirt down below. And up the road you’d find the ponds where someone may have caught the only large mouth bass they’d ever held, up close, in their hands. And I’d float down the main trail, out into the woods where the soccer field sat. The one where a dirt bike was laid down in the grass at close to sixty miles per hour, and also where you could go and sit, and think, in the somewhat welcoming woods.
I’d probably hear a chainsaw echoing through the trees, bouncing off the houses, now that I’d be a few miles away from the lake, and the smell of fresh cut oak would hang in the air with that slightly sour, pungent, roasted woodiness that always signals the winding down of summer.
A dog might bark somewhere in the distance as a Harley Davidson’s slightly offbeat cadence rattled through the countryside, popping and clicking, out there, on the other side of a hometown.
And at some point I’d probably end up with a cocoa-cola classic in my hand from the vending machine at the local college, right before stopping by the lounge with all the video games. There may or may not be a few too many games of Ivan Stewart’s Super Off-Road played, the steering wheel whipped this way, then spun with two hands the other way, jerking the whole machine while a line of onlookers might form, waiting for something truly rare and great to happen.
Someone, we don’t know who, might throw some crumpled tinfoil balls in the small microwave, turn the little knob and run out, sparks popping and sputtering inside the strangely small plastic door, with a fake metallic handle. Rows of mailboxes with glass doors would be spied through, wondering what could be inside.
BMX bikes would be ridden, and skateboards fallen from, and the day would come to a close, but not before making plans with friends and swapping a few mix tapes, with that peculiar chemical, corn-tortilla-like smell that would float up from the plastic that wrapped the magnetic, rolled-up goodness inside.
I’d still be floating or maybe driving through a town like this as the day closes, but by then I’d have moved forward and back through time, seamlessly and without much notice or trouble at all. Faces would come and go, feelings and emotions splashed on that canvas we all have on the inside, but it would only be the ones that go with the theme, because those are the ones that matter the most.
The day might end with a bonfire at someone’s house out in the country but still at the edge of the lake, because the lake is the central theme in a town like this, the one that I’d fly through. And there’s probably a boat or two still out on the water as the day fades, with those green and white lights letting you know which direction it’s headed. And the sky is that perfect orange gradient that fades from fuzzy peach to light blue, now to lavender and then dark black overhead. And the stars are just becoming visible while the fire crackles and friends laugh and hug.