My Bed is a Pool and the Wall’s on Fire
by Hope Waggoner
My current sleep cycle found itself the summer I turned 12 in the 1–3 AM block of Kids in the Hall reruns on Comedy Central. If I fell asleep after, I could dream through a few hours of Girls Gone Wild infomercials until early 90’s SNL reruns came on in the morning.
A few summers later this evolved into what I thought were sexy IFC movies in the middle of the night and the Sucker Free Countdown in the morning when “Feel Good, Inc” and “Gold Digger” were the most played videos.
Jack White sings the anthem of nearly every summer of adolescence, a new pounding guitar riff joining a chorus of humming cicadas and ice cream truck jingles, late night mariachi music, and the constant sizzle of the heat on sidewalk.
Staccato firecracker shadows on a garage door, finding the easiest way to complete summer reading lists, planting marigolds around the garden to keep slugs away from the vegetables, a watermelon seed splatters at your bare feet as you hold your neck as far away from your torso as possible in order to avoid
juice on your striped tank top.
Tasting the smell of tomato vines on a ripe tomato, being asked to please at least shuck the corn if you’re going to look so goddamned bored, chocolate milkshakes in those pink see-through plastic cups that appeared annually out of nowhere, making American flag-themed bird houses, the yearly attraction to the idea of iced coffee, your counselor reads you ghost stories in the clearly haunted old Baptist meeting house at nature camp.
The delighted shrieks of neighborhood children as they run through sprinklers, being asked to please at least walk the dog if you’re going to look so goddamned bored, having to wait to go back into the Water Mine pool because a baby pooped again, finally going to the National Zoo on a day that the gray wolf comes out, puking on the tea cups ride and breaking your tooth on a candy apple, awkwardly handing the nearest adult the fanny pack containing your EpiPen and avoiding eye contact while hurriedly explaining, “You have to stab me with the needle in here if a bee stings me or else,” before running to grab a pool noodle.
Homemade orange juice popsicles in the popsicle mold you keep in the basement except once a summer when you remember about it, having to drive to fucking Baltimore just to see the Orioles lose, cool lizards at the Mount Vernon slave quarters, purple stains on your feet from the mulberry tree in the yard for a month straight. Your hippie parents rest their hands on your shoulders in silence as you stand watching the new condo complex set ablaze in the summer night, but you can still hear the things they said when the woods were first torn apart to put up those ugly new houses.
Why does mini golf have to be across the street from a cemetery, Dad trying to put a fun new spin on “Let’s go visit Antietam Battlefield” every year, freezing water bottles for the pet rabbits to lie next to on 110 degree days, the constant smell of citronella, finally getting it when you try your first Frappuccino, sitting on your hands to prevent your legs from sticking to the bleachers, the visible haze that only accompanies 100% humidity, pride flags next to hydrangeas in full June bloom, clutching Diet Dr. Peppers and swatting gnats on someone’s back porch. Floral thrift store dresses and elaborate sandals, using your summer job money exclusively on hair products.
Getting “really tipsy” on 1/2 a bottle of pilfered Mike’s Hard at your best friend’s house, becoming prematurely really excited about Halloween every August but not having anyone who shares your early sentiments, wondering if maybe this summer you’ll get a hot neighbor boy, Civil War head stones lit by flashlight, gay prom because nothing is more alt cool than being gay / socializing with gays, your boss buying a whole case of Costco veggie burgers so that he can forget one in the microwave for you at the summer barbeque, your best friend drives you through a hailstorm blasting Ladytron after one of you finally gets a license, pretending to smoke cigarettes, dressing up to watch the Potomac flood, citing Julie Harris in East of Eden meets M.I.A. as the inspiration for your summer look this year, beaches where swearing is strictly prohibited, rounding up a group of people in the middle of the night to listen to sad dance music and drive long distances for a specific types of junk food.
Walking back to the metro on U street at 3AM with the birds singing and the 80 degree heat frizzing your hair, dazed and sweaty from dancing and dewy in your timid, confused virginal sexuality, everyone raising their voices together to sing “Umbrella, ella, ella…” into the windless night, and then your mercifully cool basement bedroom, looking at hel-looks.com until dawn, making coffee with almond extract upstairs and trying to stay awake the rest of the day but falling asleep in the blinding morning sunlight.