In mid-day in mid-summer the streets of my town were empty.
The men were all at work; I didn’t know a single, able -bodied man then who didn’t have a job, and the women were at one of the private pools in town, there were three of them then, where they sat in terrycloth robes over their swimsuits and played cards or pretended to flirt with the college-student lifeguards who sat perched in high chairs, twirling their lanyards and whistles around their wrists and babysitting the kids who would run along the sides of the pool if you didn’t ride herd on them. The younger kids were at the pools, too. The boys in lines for the high-dive or playing blind man’s bluff in some shallow corner. The girls lotioned up and lying out on beach towels laid over the painted wood pallets on the concrete terraces above and around the water.
I wandered out into the hot streets alone, like a crazy dog. I went right for the bits of forest that still surrounded the haphazard development of my neighborhood and took the smooth, brown-dirt path and disappeared under the shade and canopy of the woods in full flower. I found that pushing my way through the underbrush and running full-on when the path allowed brought me into a full, ringing sweat and the heat and the insects no longer bothered me.
I climbed into the tree house we’d built back in the cool autumn and laid down on the makeshift floor of boards we’d found in our basements and thrown around in the woods at the edges of backyards and rested my chin there as I looked out at the valley – the churches and school buildings, the car dealerships by the big highway and the giant chemical plant in the far distance. I slept, I am sure, and this was the best sleep that season afforded.