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suburban summer
summer just outside of the city
by robert a. melos

Heat. Mostly I remember the heat.

The standard uniform was shorts and a wife-beater, with sneakers or sandals. Rolling out of bed and donning the summer attire, you hit the streets in search of friends and fun. Everyone you knew was gathered at the park in the center of the town, either at the basketball court or the public pool. Some of your friends hung out around their parent’s pool in their backyards, but mostly you would wander wherever the largest crowd gathered.

The sidewalk and blacktop made it too hot to go without shoes, but then why would you want to go without shoes? You were going to be shooting hoops with the guys, and you couldn’t do that barefoot. You could feel the heat from the blacktop working its way through the soles of your sneakers, driving you on, motivating you to keep moving in a forward direction. It inspired you to play better ball by making it too hot to stand in one place.

Oh there were escapes from the heat. The public pool was good, but mostly the older guys hung out there showing off for the girls by doing impressive dives from the high board. Once in a while you would go to the pool, but mostly it was one of the courts in town. Not the tennis court, because they were reserved for the adults. Mostly the women whose husbands left early in the mornings on buses or trains heading into the city to earn tennis lesson money for their wives.

Tennis didn’t matter to you anyway, because basketball was where it was at when you were 12. It was even where it was at when you were 14, before you were supposed to notice girls and forget about everything else. It wasn’t that you didn’t notice girls you just didn’t get it the way other guys got it. So you played basketball until all your friends hooked up with girlfriends, and then you retreated to the other escape from the heat.

Your days were now spent at the movies. You were at the multiplex, where the manager eventually got to know you by name. You even got the occasional free bucket of popcorn, extra butter, because you were there everyday. You would sit in the air-conditioned darkness of the auditorium, watching Star Wars on its first release, seeing it 15 times before you finally decided to go into one of the other auditoriums. You never went all the way down the hallway to the tiny theater at the end, because you knew any film shown in that theater was usually something sappy that critics loved, and all the old ladies flocked to see. You didn’t want to be in the old ladies theater.

After the movie you wandered around the mall, buying a hot pretzel if you were still hungry, or maybe a Mr. Softee cone, vanilla and chocolate combo. You finished the afternoon at the comic book store, picking up the latest X-Men or Superman, or Green Lantern.

The evenings were spent hanging on the street corner with your friends, those who didn’t have girlfriends or those who were dumped by their girlfriends for a guy with a car. You would hang out and talk about cars and sex. Mostly sex because that seemed to be what everyone had the most interest in, aside from basketball.

Those days drifted by and soon you were back in school, facing another year of hell at the hands of the locker room bullies and tyrannical teachers. But, for a few weeks each year you got to forget about the real world and just let life drift by. Until your father decided you were old enough for a summer job.


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos


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topic: general
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juli mccarthy
6.27.03 @ 12:08a

I like this - it's a nice companion to Tracey's column, more than a contrast. I suppose I should do the obligatory Summer In The City piece, huh? I really did have the best of all worlds in summer recreation, because I lived in the city with Mom, but was at Dad's out in the country every other weekend, until I was a teenager and we moved to the 'burbs.

robert melos
6.27.03 @ 12:56a

I was offering up a different memory from Tracey's. I think I would've liked growing up in the country, but snakes and spiders freak me out. I'm more into furries, like rats and mice. You know, city live stock. Just joshing.

We caught fireflies when I was a child, and like Tracey and many others we kept them in a jar and tossed some grass in for them to sleep in.

Mostly we hung out in the mall. It's hard for me to imagine not hanging out in a theater or mall in the summers.

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