It’s Summer Time, and the Loving is Easy
Remember Summer? She’s the skinny, eternally stoned waif who wanders The Village looking for guys she can sleep with. Really. She’s relentless. It’s not that she’s a prostitute or anything. She doesn’t want much in exchange, except for maybe some decent company, some reasonably potent drugs, and some really great sex.
I got a chance to talk with her in a rare moment when she was both lucid and alone. She was sitting on a rock by the sea, gnawing on something that I seriously hope was a chicken leg. Her pale blond hair shimmered in the sunlight, and her intense blue eyes had something of a birdlike quality to them — darting around, assessing the surroundings, locking on me from time to time.
We talked for a while, our conversation punctuated by her suggestions that we head off to the Pad and play a little game I like to call Tempting Fate. I declined, but that didn’t keep her from suggesting it again every few sentences.
Between moments of small-scale but intense violence, when she used her strangely white teeth to rip the flesh off the tibia she was chewing, she told me a bit about herself. I’m sorry to say that I hadn’t taken the time to ask earlier.
She was born in England, the daughter of two Jesuit missionaries who scoured the world in search of souls to save. When she turned two, Mum and Dad missionaried their way to Kenya, where Summer spent three idyllic years playing with monkeys and rebelling against the home schooling that was inflicted on her and her two brothers. Then the Jetsetting Jesuits headed off to Siberia, where they lived in a small ramshackle settlement and tried to pre-heat the church enough each Sunday morning to make it enticing for the locals. Summer wasn’t sure they saved any souls in Siberia, but it’s a good bet they saved a few toes.
Some years in Germany, more in Tibet. A blur through Brazil, Nunavut, Haiti, New York. Her brothers rebelled in classic fashion and joined the Air Force, where they trained for long periods of time and occasionally got the chance to drop bombs on invisible people that someone higher up the food chain had declared “the enemy.” Summer rebelled in her own way by shacking up with disreputable guys. It became an art form with her. She would seek out the one guy in town who slouched more, shaved less, mumbled more, made eye contact less, groped more, smiled less, cursed more, and sucked up to her parents less — and she’d wrap her legs around him on the way out the front door. As near as I can tell, her parents are humble, decent, earth-salt types who never deserved the late-night mental images that must come to folks who know that their boys are incinerating civilians and their daughter is slithering out of her skivvies for the first guy who grunts “bitch” at her. Summer doesn’t seem to care, though. “It’s not like my mother was a virgin or anything,” she shrugs.
Throughout her travels/upbringing, Summer picked up half a dozen languages. She can speak Swahili, German, Portuguese, French, Inuktitut, and English — all well enough to bargain in a marketplace or hurl insults at uninterested men. She knows how to polish the runners of a dogsled with her spit, paddle a kayak against vicious currents, play baccarat in high-priced casinos, and pinch a wallet from the front pocket of a snug pair of worsted trousers. So I asked her why on Earth she seems content to live on a small rock off the coast of sleepy, backwoods Maine.
“Why not?” she answered, breaking the chicken bone with her molars and channeling a Firesign Theater slogan: “We’re all bozos on this bus.”
If Summer ate half a watermelon and wore heavy-weight underwear, she might break the hundred-pound mark on a basic bathroom scale. She is pale and emaciated; as she scuttles across the rocks on the beach, she seems like those crabs that hide under seaweed — tough, fast, brittle, and fascinating. On her back she wears a maroon T-shirt that used to carry some slogan that has long since faded into uniformity. (Summer insists that the T-shirt was a memento from Smith College’s centennial and proclaimed “A Century of Women on Top!”) Her shorts were formerly green, her feet bare and white despite a long string of afternoons in the summer sun. She eats what she can find, she smokes what she is given, and she sleeps with whatever is agreeable.
“Aren’t you afraid of waking up one morning to find that you’re all alone on this remote little island?” I asked. “Don’t you want some close friends or someone who will help you through the tough times?”
She stared at me blankly, those disturbing blue eyes piercing me yet again. “You’re all alone on this remote little island. You sleep in a mosquito-infested shack that most decent people would have burned to the ground by now. You drive a spray-painted car that smells worse than it looks, and I don’t think you’ve had a decent bath in weeks. Are you afraid?”
She let that sink in.
“And if so,” she continued, “afraid of what?”
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Got a comment for the “Island Wars” blog? Post it here:
Comment — BobbyBoy886314: I’ve been reading this blog for a long time now, and I don’t think you’re afraid of anything, Van! When I get out of high school, I’m going to be a writer just like you.
Comment — Gemstone: I’m glad to see that you turned down her invitations. Smart man. But she raises an interesting question: What are you afraid of, Van? And what do you really want?
Comment — BinoMan211: Babes everywhere! C’mon, Van — give us the particulars!
Comment — WomynFire982: no, van. don’t.
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.