MORE LIKE HANGING AROUND

by Claire Moshenberg on June 23, 2012

I wish I could remember what we listened to that summer. It was hot; that’s certain. Baltimore summers make your legs stick to the slick give of car leather, leaving rivet marks in your thigh wobble. A two-block walk in high spirits is luscious, steamy. A two-block walk when you’re low is dizzying, dripping.

We were on our way to War of the Worlds. Tom Cruise and destruction at an old movie house that reeked of popcorn butter and Freon. There were three of us, all nineteen or just shy of it. We were underage and night had fallen without the promise of a slapdash party. So we went to the Senator Theatre, with Evan Williams whiskey in a silver flask, as cool and smooth as moon rocks. Gina had a purse full of liquor and I had a purse full of candy and Josh had an engine full of gas.

If we’d been in a movie, we would’ve turned the speakers up on the way there and played Motown girl groups, because there’s something summery and just short of twee there. The Velvelettes, the Ronettes, the Marvelettes — it’s gotta end with “-ette” and they’ve gotta clap. Cross your fingers for doo-wop in the chorus; bet your ass you’re singing along by verse two. We weren’t in a movie. I bet we listened to classic rock.

Hot weather makes people born north of 1980 imagine that it’s 1972. It’s a theory turned fact by another season of maxi dresses and tribal prints. That summer we wore our hair dirty and loose. Gina wore wiry granny glasses. My jeans were torn at the knee, my sunglasses comically large. We watched Festival Express and The Wall on and off all summer, with long-necked beers, with cigarettes smoked slowly on steamy balconies. We were a-dul-ts, see? Look at our movies and our glasses. Look at the creases in our foreheads, the serious thoughts that put them there.

The movie was terrible and so fun. There’s nothing like snickering at something big and buttery on the screen, shoulder to shoulder, your supple spines twisted in knots as you slouch down, sandals loosed and sharing the same straw in the same tremendous barrel of whiskey-flecked Coke. A happy little wolf pack, we three, sweaty and breathing in each other’s ears, screeching at the screech parts, laughing at the rest. We were barely friends. We’d met Gina two weeks prior. She may as well have been family. We’d fallen into the social rhythm of summer. Sling food all day — make it or pass it or wipe the tables down. Squirrel the tips away in an envelope in your sock drawer. Spend too much on beer when you can get it; spend the rest on coffee and movies and magazines. Drink in fields with new friends and old friends. Drink at movie theaters. Go to parties in the basements of kids you sort of knew in high school. Feel the warm hum of belonging. Sweat and slouch and eat hamburgers in your backyard and wait.

The movie was over. There were no adventures left at 10:00 p.m. on a Monday; we racked our brains for parties, bars that would’ve served a preschooler, all-night diners. Nothing.  So, bleary-eyed and subdued, we headed home. Outside of a strip mall, sprinklers smacked a rectangle of coiffed grass. We pulled over, turned down the Who or Zeppelin or the Band. Gina and I took off our shoes and ran headlong into the water, chasing the wet whip across the wet grass.

Josh laughed. We all laughed. There was nothing sexy or adult, even though we were soaking and clad only in the spare bits the heat allowed. We were tall children in short grass. Gina could’ve been my sister and Josh our lovable towheaded cousin who lived down the street, and all of us grinning with milky, sweet-smelling heads and sweaty limbs that tuckered out and were tucked in by smiling parents. Our own parents were perplexed by the kids who came home from college, stringy and scowling, reeking of cigarettes. If left alone for a second, we populated the hollows between couch cushions with the flinty caps of cheap beer, all our efforts focused on hiding the bottles, our breath.

We drove home with the windows down, and Gina sang the words to something, and we all joined in, loudly, hanging out the windows so the whole world could see us because we were sure they wanted to. I lay in bed that night and listened to the air conditioning. Three more months of Baltimore heat. Three more months of the same. I listened to “Ghost World” by Aimee Mann. I agreed. Summer unfurled, hot and long, friendships were made and dropped as fast as chlorine-heavy swimsuits. We never hung out with Gina again.

* * * *

Claire Moshenberg is a San Francisco-based author, activist, and new-media consultant. She is co-proprietor of the web site Charm City Jukebox.

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