That Summer Feeling (a selection, a remembering)

Happy summer, songbirds! It’s that time of the year again—the time when pollen blows away in the wind and rain turns to empty heat, when school years come to a close and pool water shines white in the sun. And summer is also, of course, a season of song. With no classes and no homework, my summers have always loomed wide open, ready to be filled with music and tenderness. Throughout my life, I have measured the space in between my summers in song, and so, here is a memoir in playlist form: 

“Hiding Tonight” by Alex Turner 

“Hiding Tonight” is 14 year old daydreaming, sunrise on the backyard swing, scrawling lyrics in Sharpie on my thighs. I started high school the fall of 2012; the summer before that I learned how to love movies, and the movie that taught me how was Richard Ayoade’s Submarine. Its soundtrack colored my entire season. When I think back now, “Hiding Tonight” is never-ending bicycle rides, cracked glass, padded bras, blueberries, pizza, a hot chocolate candle.   

“This is the Last Time” by the National

In 2013, Matt Berninger crooned to me, “don’t tell anyone I’m here / I’ve got Tylenol and beer,” and at 15, those lyrics really meant something. More specifically, they meant floating on your back in the night, staring at stars in swimming pools; smoking stolen cigarettes behind the shed; driving slow and sacred through the neighborhood, all the windows—now and forever—rolled all the way down. 

“The Party” by St. Vincent

“The Party” is learning what it means to be a little girl and to be angry—not necessarily in that order. It’s driving up a mountain road, creeping to the top of the Ferris wheel. It’s looking out the windows and loving all of it, the world that is. It’s the sugar grain of hotel coffee, arcade lights, voices ebbing and flowing; it’s reading Sylvia Plath in the blister cold of the DMV. “The Party” was the soundtrack to the summer of 2014, my last summer of really, truly being a little girl.  

“Swimming Pool” by the Front Bottoms

Sitting on the pink bed in my pink room trying to decipher the lyrics of “Swimming Pool” like the whiny soon-to-be-17-year-old I was: this is what constituted the summer of 2015. But that summer was also bee stings, blood under my nails, and a bad bout of mononucleosis; it was hiding books inside of shoe boxes and hiding shoe boxes beneath the bed. “Swimming Pool” was my hoarse scream, my stale nerves. I was stuck somewhere, and I wanted to be somewhere else. 

“Self Control” by Frank Ocean

I finally found that somewhere else in the late summer of 2016, when two days into college orientation Frank Ocean released the album Blonde. From there on out, everything was green, brand new and bursting open in terror, shivering up the hill in the heat of an August morning. The summer of 2016 belongs to “Self Control,” white brick walls, the rumble of the MARTA train—to the warmth and the horror of being alone in a city.

“Green Light” by Lorde

2017 was the summer of Lorde, of the locked bathroom door, of putting life in a cardboard box and carting it away with you. I left the city and couldn’t sleep, so instead I swung in the backyard and swam in the pools and listened to Melodrama every single day. “Green Light” was the soundtrack to the last summer when “going back home” actually meant something; it was the score to a balancing act I still don’t have a name for, one whose fall I’m still recovering from.

“Half Light” by Rostam

I’m out of the country on scholarship, reading Shakespeare in a big white bed in Oxford—that was the summer of 2018, that was “Half-Light.” I went nowhere for 20 years and then all at once I was everywhere, speeding in planes and trains and cars, all the while trying to latch onto something, anything, that might slow me down just a little. In the summer of 2018, I gripped tight to “Half-Light” and felt as still as the heat waving over London. 

What next?

As I write this, it’s mid-June of 2019. I have no idea what song will epitomize this summer in years to come, but I know that it’s out there somewhere, shimmering in the heat, waiting for me. My hands are open; my speakers are thumping; I’m ready to seize the feeling.