We were resourceful in the ’90s; we had to be in the summertime, when we were letting the cool air out, the critters in, so neighborhood mothers seemed to scream in unison “Don’t go in and out of this house! Either go outside or stay inside.”
I was sentenced outside after ingesting too many music videos, trash talk shows–and other reasons mamma could inject the word “garbage” into her conversations with me. It was the same summer I was banned from sitting in her room as she watched soap operas because a blond actress considered abortion. I was learning too much for a nine year old.
Life was better outside anyway, even as the sun baked our coffee skin three shades darker; my age group four houses down agreed. Behind our parents’ watch, we could balance on bikes with no hands until we skinned our knees, poke holes in ant hills to watch their scrambling anger, and explore houses gutted and abandoned by foreclosure.
Still nothing compared to when we needed water after chasing my friend’s many brothers through backyards, exhausting our sweat glands, lungs, neighbors screaming empty threats over trespassing. Panting with hands on our knees, I barely had power to follow them to their backyard, dodging their doberman and two (illegal) chickens who were too scarred by our rough definitions of play to approach us.
This was the first time I sipped from their garden hose, holding the green tube at an angle then lowering my head to the stream, just the way I watched them. Sometimes little drops would leap and mix with the sweat that beaded on my forehead. Almost immediately, my insides caught a breeze.
It was well over 95 degrees; we were just starting to care, but endured the fever until submitting to the taste of finding salvation, guzzling silver reflections until we cramped, later picking fights and teammates before the streetlights. And the next day, and after, the routine began again.
Today, after swallowing yard work sweat, I tried to find solace in garden hose water again. Spoiled by bottled water, I couldn’t find that old oasis. I grimaced: “This tastes like a liquid rusty nail.” I ain’t lying; This could’ve been the truth many summers ago, too.