In Issue 04 we asked our contributors to reminisce on the sweaty days and balmy nights of summers past.
Summer was tangerine. The evening sun only set after nine pm. Glowing through tram windows, reflected off skyscraper panels, turning the backyard orange. January stood still, the days long and warm. On a particularly hot Thursday night, I walked down my street, stolen succulents in hand, ripped from the gardens of sleeping neighbours.
The air in the house is thick. All of the lamps are on and I think of sticky honey. My broken fan sighs, faintly pushing hot air around. When I crawl in bed, I push the blankets away from me. I think of sailor blue nights in the city in the winter time. Winter with its gloves and cold feet. In the heat of mid-Summer, Winter feels like a dream. The temperature doesn’t drop below 30 degrees all night. I fall asleep with a wet cloth on my chest. My room swelters and I spend most of the night on the edge of sleep, uncomfortable — hot. My cat sleeps on the wooden floor boards of the room. In the morning, she is still there. I wake to the familiar tangerine tinge as the sun seeps through the blinds. The face towel lays dry and stiff on the floor. As I trudge to the shower, I pass my housemate in the kitchen. “I’m fucken’ over Summer”, she says. Her words and face red.
The final bell rings and I rush across the grass to find Caitlin. We meet at her locker, grin, and gush over the contents of the day. She scoops up her books and dumps them all in an oversized blue bag. We walk around the corner to an identical locker and I do the same. I deposit a collection of muesli bar wrappers in the bin. Today is the last day of year eight.
We jump on the 59, the Ballina bus - one neither of us ride to get home. It smells of the end of a hot school day and Lynx Africa. Sweat glues my uniform to my back as I try to describe my grand summer plans over the yelling of both primary and high-school aged children.
We get off at the main street stop, relish in the fresh air and sprint to the river. We throw off our shoes and slump beside the fishermen on the dock. We dip our feet in the water, let the sun singe our noses, and watch the small bait fish nibble at our toes. Soon, we are hungry.
We head to Subway, order 3 cookies each - all different flavours - and a large Fanta. I snatch up the only comfortable chairs (the ones by the window). We talk shit and drop crumbs. Caitlin convinces the pimply 16 year old behind the counter to keep giving us $1 refills even though you aren’t meant to get $1 refills if you’re sharing a cup.
I have an idea. I grab a wad of straws and slowly connect them. One by one, we insert each into the end of one before it. Our transparent straw masterpiece rises out of the plastic lid like Berlin plumbing. It extends across the room. I sip at my drink, still in its original position, from the other side of the shop.
There's cheeky grin and little nod my dad gives me each December, it's the start of the most delicious time of year. Each Christmas the holy Portarlington Donut Van appears. From Boxing Day through to the end of summer the Bellarine Peninsula is blessed with the presence of the old white trailer, with a big red nappy-wearing devil on the side. Yellowed light bulbs flicker in a rim around its roof, and its blue bubble letters spell out the situation: Traditional Donuts with Jam. Jam Donuts.
More often than not you struggle to get a close park, and end up walking along Portarlington’s foreshore towards it. The way its parked hides the line of people bending at angles in an attempt to keep the lines off the hot gravel road. The van has two large windows on each side, and as you walk past them you can see the dough being kneaded, cut, and thrown into the fryer.
The traditional order is half a dozen. You’d be mad to get any less. As you order the friendly face of the vans owner greets you, he's not looking at you, but his warm toothy smile is sent in your direction. His eyes only flicker to you momentarily as he pumps jam into the freshly fried dough balls. They’re doused in a thick coating of granulated white sugar, and thrown into a paper bag that has to be methodically twisted to keep them from escaping. The donuts are so fresh that they burn your hands as you scurry away to eat them. Most people opt for the sandy beach just ten metres away, but for us the race was on to get them back home before they started to cool off.
It’s not just the delicious fresh hot doughnut that makes the experience so special, but the anticipation that leads to it. Would he be there? Would he have closed already? Did he have to go home because of the extreme heat? With no social media or phone number the drive there is just as important as the donut itself. It was the easiest adrenaline rush a kid could get.
It was six a.m. and stars were dispersed across the sky, their luminescence quietly blinkering, their gaze both comforting in its familiarity and calling to the oldness of the world. Caught by the clutches of night’s darkness and the rising cheerfulness of morning light, we began our climb of North Africa’s tallest mountain. We had no climbing experience, no proper gear, a mountain guide who felt sorry for us and let us accompany him out of pity.
Experienced climbers feasted upon our unbridled messiness like a group of squawking vultures. Not only were we young, but we were women... and the condescension was made shamelessly obvious. Yet, as we set off in complete darkness, I could see that one foot offthis tiny path at three thousand meters altitude was the exact same as a slip of my own mind, a moment of panic and a loss of bodily control. Perhaps the climbers had a point.
Each stride would discharge puffs of snow that were flung in the air by the teeth of my crampons, rocketing around madly like the butterflies in my stomach. Feeling as light as snow because of thinning oxygen supplies and heavy as the anxiety that is to fear death, I would whisper to myself this is a mind game and take the next step.
To be subjected to the volatility of one’s mind and to experience a never-ending series of tormenting counterfactuals for every decision I made delineated the boundaries of psychological constraint. But we climbed the rocky beast and made it through our steady descent. And so, while shoved to the edge of my mind’s capabilities, I learnt that within a space of psychological confinement lies the promise of change, that the ‘odds’ of any situation can be changed by the simple will of the mind.
2012. What a year. Amongst other things, our all-knowing and benevolent head of state celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, Barack Obama was re-instated for a second term in office despite opting not to use the slogan ‘yes we can…again’ and I got drunk for the first time, on a combination of Smirnoff Double Blacks and goon at a house party in Newrybar.
However, it is common knowledge that 2012 was in fact defined by ten glorious, sun drenched hours during its very first week. For the majority of those perfect hours, I was sat with my eyes glued to the TV in the living room of a beach house that my parents had rented in Lennox Head. I had never seen such beauty, and I have not since. A flash of peroxide blond hair, a flick of the wrists, a kiss of the crest; this was a man at the very peak of his powers. As each minute passed, the situation became more unbelievable. 50…100…150…200…250. By this point, it was absolute bedlam in Lennox Head and our swim breaks had become few and far between. Even Mum, who had lost complete faith in the game when Kerry Packer prompted the introduction of coloured clothing in the 70s, at least feigned interest when he passed three hundred.
I, on the other hand, was losing it. With each thunderous off drive, each deft glide through the covers, each immaculately timed clip to the on side, my eyes widened further. Part of me willed for the onslaught to end, for the sake of the bedraggled Indian attack - these men had families for Christ’s sake! However, most of me wanted to stay there forever, entranced by the most profound display of artistry, technique, concentration and leadership that this world had ever seen, bar none. And perhaps I would have, had he not selflessly declared only one run short of Bradman’s famous innings of 330.
The weird thing is – I’m not even sure how good he actually was. Nothing he did before or anything he did after really hinted at an innings of such quality…could have been a fluke, I guess.
Either way, cheers Michael.
My favourite summer memories revolve around a red flag stuck in the sand between two caved out dunes. Tattered fabric whipping and screaming, this flag indicated one thing: The beach was closed.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the beach, but I loved storm days on patrol more.
Storm days on patrol meant skidding across the surf club lawn on boat sized yellow Surf Life Saving Australia boogie boards until our nipples were red and sore. Storm days meant posting up in the club house, eating rotisserie chicken sandwiches on white bread, washing them down with cold cans of coke and licking our fingers after. Storm days meant falling asleep on grey, salt encrusted couches that must have been twice my age and conducting weight lifting competitions on machines twice as old as the couches.
All of this amongst sub-tropical raindrops the size of five-cent coins and winds strong enough to knock the fronds off even the sturdiest palms.
Those were days that, despite the dangers of the swell or the wind, you knew you wouldn’t be called upon. You had said your piece through the flag, the beach was closed. All you had to do was sit back, let the hour’s tick by, and hope it was sunnier wherever the cricket was on.
Jamie Marina Lau
I could only tell when it was night in Santa Monica, that it was a different season in February than home.
On the plane I was wearing a singlet but had a jacket for when we got off.
But we walked down Sunset Boulevard tryna find a T-mobile, sweat beading. 7288 W Sunset Blvd Ste 102, Los Angeles, CA, 90046. We got something like a $30 plan, we sat and waited for each of us individually to get the chip put in our phones. The air conditioner broke. We past the Ralph’s so we bought bottled water, the condoms are in a padlocked safe. We had parked near the Egyptian theatre, more than a 20-minute walk across colossal West Hollywood. The morning it was summer, but we had packed hoodies for after the flight.
When we got out the airport we went on a bus to the Hertz, I had a fight with J and sat on a black couch next to the plants, feeling hot, got water from the bubbler, went to the bathroom and broke my nail in the paper towel dispenser. We went to the Grove and it was fine again when we parked on the roof top and I took a blurry photo of sign: Hollywood. Sarah Vaughan was playing where the fountain was, the Starbucks behind. B told us how to eat sushi with fingers. Then driving to Santa Monica with tops off and it’s windy, the sea is black and there’s so much sand between the road and the water. On the pier a man selling roses. We walk to the end, a raccoon under the bench. The rides are sorta shut. Some of the stalls open. Found out it’s only winter at night here.