What it meant.
The sky, the clouds, the way the heat expanded day after day and became larger than space itself. But always, the sky. Summer indicated taking the sky into account.
The editor got the bit wrong. Calling it some cajun bayou town.
This was the nature of the sensation: when summer was happening it was already gone, already only remembered.
Summer was a condition of remembering.
It was a little town, all right. But not down there. Down there was a different world altogether.
You could go all summer long and not really be in it, not even be aware of being in summer and it was just one moment that was summer.
Always in summer, always, music was being played somewhere. Even unheard, it was there, potential, inherent within space.
Just one moment.
Sometimes it was more effort to try to correct a thing. Distinctions of location difficult to convey to outsiders--out-of-staters. Though similarity in the respect of heat and light and forgotten rural areas remained . . .
And that moment was infinitely flexible, could stretch in all directions. The moment of the tree-outlined horizon, the sky layered beyond. . . the relentless eye overhead.
All he had to do was go straight instead of turning on the exit ramp for the apartment. One hour. Straight west. Into the west. (A song playing somewhere.) One late afternoon heading home after work into the sun. A missed moment, and one hour further down the Interstate. Another identical exit, onto a paved parish road for five minutes, and it was a different world, years further than the hour it took.
A world remembered curiously enough only in summer. As if no reference were available beyond the frame of the season to the visualization of the town, the community--what there was of community (how did people live in those places, no viable commerce?)
The water tower. The empty red brick mercantiles. Baking asphalt. Stringy waste grass in every unlikely crevice. People, kids walking in the absence of any obvious destination. Clouds like messengers from worlds unfathomable, unreachable, the realm of the rumored.
If he went back there. . . that could happen, he supposed. But he could not fathom how.
The moment. Getting it right. The condition of past-ness.
One hour to the west.
The marrow-pain of each forward step notching one off the finite total. Where you grew up, were a child, amidst the bright physical textures of place. And the advent of the first and final law: one will pass eventually, inevitably--the world of summer remembered, or you.