With the end of summer comes a reflection on summers past. The transition to fall marks the break of an incessant heat, the faint nectar of summer fruits, the fade of once-vibrant colors and travels made still. It is a season of spontaneity and a journey in its sweltering moods, temperatures, and events.
All day streets remain quiet as the only sign of life lays in the sun’s vibrance. The occasional breeze or sought-after shower accompany afternoons spent reading with legs, bare, stretched over wicker furniture. Time, suspended as the sun lingers and shadows like memories of seasons past disappear. Naps brought on by waves of heat as the dreamer rests in revelry of wool blankets and fireside murmurs. Eyes closed, you may forget where you are.
By nightfall it would appear that the coming of the moon was a daily celebration as bars fill with a youth it hadn’t seen in the hours prior.
One late summer night, the heat and its unwelcome stillness prove too much for my apartment to bear. Kitchen lights flicker twice before they succumb to struggle. Their burden: a dozen A/C window units. A breakfast pizza in the oven, its egg yolk not quite formed, is cautiously abandoned. The next morning’s visit to Charleston moved toward a similar fate. It was shortly after midnight and every Couchsurfing host proved unresponsive. A night without power and a retreat without a destination began to get the best of us. Around 1:30 our doubts leave us.
The fog of that Friday secluded me as I took a morning run - it felt like the last bit of solitude before the six and half hour car ride ahead of us.
We set out to visit a friend’s parents and arrived in a town not all too different from the one we left. It had its college crowd, historical neighborhoods, and an abundance of chefs. We spent our nights in cobblestone streets, touristy piers, and self-conscious bars. By the end of it, we sprawled across the living room in true Couchsurfer manner. Our days were met with the ocean air, the used bookshop, the craft brewery, and men’s boutique - bboys break up the monotony of the ever-present farmer’s market and fuel their own dreams of travel.
Some moments felt like high school - the half hour or so parked outside of a Harris Teeter, the only place we could seek solace from our overbearing host without getting lost. Others moved me to gratitude - the three-hour meal of soul food, mindful conversation, and playful intimacy of the young family at the table nearest ours. At one point, a sun-drained slumber fell upon all of us; its spell cast by a bluegrass quartet and the day-drinking that preceded their performance. The farewell brunch and kitchen sink full of Andre served as testament to the social climate, a gathering of far too many bodies for a one-bedroom apartment.
No trip through the Carolinas is complete without Eastern-style barbecue. The hospitality of our server was evident from counter to departure. As the sun waned and we entered our last leg, the lights of the car just rear of us shined long enough to finish one more chapter. Three of us reclined in our seats, stargazers of separate narratives, momentarily entwined.
I am reminded of a conversation I had earlier this summer - as time and space distance people, our exits: temporary or not, serve as little deaths. Each one a dress rehearsal for the opening night and commemorations that follow. Even distant, they are present. Carrying you in the way you carry them - in your memories, mannerisms, and mementos.