I’m sitting in my living room wearing a long-sleeved shirt and jeans. It’s weird. My windows are open and the only sound I hear is the light whirr of a window fan. That’s even weirder. For months the air conditioner has been my constant companion, rattling loudly and trying to regulate air that’s hot and thick with humidity. It works well enough but truthfully isn’t a match for our steaming days and nights that never cool down.
Something happens one day, though. The air, while still kind of humid, doesn’t feel downright soggy. The glass I drink out of isn’t perspiring all over the table. I even feel goose bumps prickle until I put on long sleeves.
There’s a seismic shift that comes in autumn that always surprises me. I’ve lived through enough summer-to-autumn transitions by now. I shouldn’t be shocked when the temperature dips slightly and I want to wear clothes that cover my arms and legs. But I’m always taken off guard. Why?
Maybe it’s because the end of summer is a mental shift as well as an astronomical one.
The next day Quint and I go to see Jaws, the ultimate summer blockbuster, in IMAX. It’s one of the last warm afternoons of the season. The screen fills my entire field of vision and the surround-sound rumbles so loud it shakes my seat. During the movie, it’s easy to forget what’s going on in the real world outside. It’s the Fourth of July on Amity Island in the movie and also in my brain. Every jump-scare that I’ve seen a million times gets me as if it’s the first time I’ve seen it. I can almost feel beach sand on my toes and shark teeth on my legs.
After the movie Quint and I stop for a beer at a favorite spot. As we talk and sip, the sky dims. It’s full black on the way home. Dark and cool.
This is when my mental shift really kicks in. No matter what the calendar says and what the temperature reads, the days right after Labor Day are different than the days before. It pains me to say it because summer is my favorite season. No matter how miserably hot, dry, and stifling it gets I still love it the most. I admit that sometimes it’s an effort, when I’m in the dank oppression of a brutal heat wave, to remember why.
As I’m walking home in the foreign-feeling chill I try to remind myself in consolation why I should be glad that summer is leaving. It’s uncomfortable. Everyone sweats. A lot. There are biting things–horseflies, mosquitoes, ticks, sharks. There’s the guilt one feels when all one wants to do is sleep when it’s sunny and beautiful out. There’s no break from relentless sun.
Ah, yes. There’s no break from relentless sun. Long days of warm rays hitting one’s shoulders and the only way to relieve oneself of the heat is to jump into brisk water. Is that really ending?
Summer has some time left as far as the calendar goes, but in a lot of ways it’s over. Mom has already had her annual Labor Day picnic, school buses clog the roads during my morning commute, and summertime traffic has thinned in town (if only slightly).
There will be another heat wave this month. There always is. The air will turn steamy, and my water glass will once again form a ring of moisture on the table. My air conditioner will kick on with a clatter and a burst of not-cold-enough air.
There will be a difference, though. I will feel as odd as I begin to sweat as I did when putting on a long-sleeved shirt for the first time in months. And when the cooler air arrives again after a few days, that’s what will seem more natural. My mind will have completed the seasonal shift.
I’ve just watched the summer blockbuster that started all summer blockbusters, and when I get back to my house, I turn off the window fans. The night bugs who hummed to me all the way home are in full summer concert mode. I’m in seasonal transition, but they aren’t yet. They buzz and drone like it’s mid-July.
I’ll miss the night bugs most of all. I lay back in the dark as they sing me to sleep.
Juliana Gribbins is a writer who believes that absurdity is the spice of life. Her book Date Expectations is winner of the 2017 Independent Press Awards, Humor Category and winner of the 2016 IPPY silver medal for humor. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of her columns at www.zip06.com/shorelineliving.