Monday, August 01, 2016

Summer is a Girl 

Haydée Politoff in Eric Rohmer's La Collectionneuse represents the kind of girl the protagonist says he has no interest in, despite being seemingly obsessed with her.

Summer is a girl on a bike, gliding effortlessly, brown shoulders bared with her hair blowing in lazy loose wisps and a tattoo dripping down her thigh. Summer is an ice cream that started to melt before the first sting of cold even touched your lips. Summer is when you savour the last rays of daylight like a candy you let dissolve on your tongue. Summer is the flutter of birch leaves and the dappled sunlight diffused beneath its branches. Summer should be warm cheeks and cool breezes, sudden storms, fresh cracked cans of beer, the spit of a sizzling steak and the electric hum of cicadas. It should be air from open windows disturbing papers while fans throb and sweating glasses leave rings on tabletops.

It shouldn’t be hate, violence, oppression, xenophobic billionaires or gruelling, repressive heat with smothering humidity and dry dead grass suffering from drought. It shouldn’t be that rotting stink that hangs over every trashcan. It shouldn’t be a line of police officers combing a street for evidence. It shouldn’t be a junky shaking uncontrollably or a fight between two drunken louts and their shadows. And it sure shouldn’t be the still sameness of office lighting and air conditioning where I find myself weirdly stuck in a timeless void. What day is it? I can’t remember. What time is it? Hard to tell. Whose life is it? Not worth mentioning.

Now another long weekend snuck up behind me, and not in the coquettish way of a flirty French movie, but without a plan or even an idea of what to do or how to escape. I’m wasting the season like a kid stuck in summer school. They say your memory elongates pleasant and engaging experiences and compresses dull and forgettable ones which is why so far I’ve had no insight, no remembrance nor any story to recall. And this is like every summer for the last three at least. My days have been inside looking out. I’ve been avoiding the heat within air conditioned theatres. I’ve been blocking out the sun under baseball caps and lines of laundry and errands so meaningless they make flipping through empty TV channels seem like an adventure.

Haydée Politoff in Eric Rohmer's La Collectionneuse

An overnight camping trip says I, that’ll be my ticket to summer bliss. Oh, but no, you’ve waited too long and not a campsite in sight is available for your sorry machinations. Maybe that kayaking course. A weekend on the water. What could be better? If I’d thought of it a week ago, I probably could’ve signed up in time. The irony of modern travel is you can go anywhere, anytime but once you’re there you need somewhere to hang your hat. AirBnB sounds so simple yet I’ve never even had a request answered or replied to? I know it is only polite to book two weeks in advance but I never actually think two weeks in advance for anything besides which two weeks still isn’t enough time to find a hotel, inn, bed and breakfast (which, by the way, I hate), or even a campsite! I can’t even guarantee a 4ft x 6 ft patch of dirt to pitch a tent (and I’ve been looking since June). So rather than peddle to a park hoping they’ll let me in, I guess I’ll go for some rides to the outer burgs and inner 'burbs of Toronto and picnic therein. I’ll swim in pools rather than ponds. I’ll while away the weekend in repose on a bench instead of a beach. I’ll take in a show rather than a vista. I’ll cook over propane rather than fire and I’ll sleep on my bed instead of a tarp. I’ll take day trips to nap under trees and call it a “stay-cation”, I’ll take books to faraway places and I’ll forget what time it is just long enough to catch the last train home.

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