Sweat. Dripping. Sweat dripping down my nose. Trickling downward between my breasts, caught by fabric and adding itself to the collective sweat pool on my shirt.
Every day prior the sun was lost to broody clouds, shifting back and forth, spurting out angry sounds and sharp light. But on this day, as though to make some sort of a point, nature had banished the storms. It was clear blue skies for the summer solstice—no rain, just lots and lots of human sweat.
I was standing outside to clean bird shit off a pool bar. Build it, and they will come. The words rolled through my head as I looked up at the wood rafters above my bar. In this case, birds. They had come to sit on my rafters and shit on my bar. Sometimes things just don’t turn out quite like you are expecting. Well, really, most of the time.
I went inside and tasted my tradition of summer solstice soup. In my haste to throw together the colors of summer—carrots the color of the sun, butter the hue of African daisies, corn like golden pearls, celery the shade of life, and beans as soft colored as sunlight—I had omitted something very important.
No ham! What the hell were you thinking? You can’t make bean soup without ham! It’s all because ham can’t be described in terms of summer. Ham, pink the color of…a tongue? Ham, pink like…a pig? If only it had been yellow and I could have called it slivers of sun on a summer afternoon, or some bullshit like that. Soup, ruined.
I shifted around the house, feeling a bit uneasy. It was nearly time for guests to arrive, and things were just not going as expected. My to-do list was beginning to merge onto itself, collapsing inward. Despite it, there was sunlight streaming into the windows and landing onto wine glasses with a dramatic clash of brilliance. The cake stand with the rum cake sitting with all its heavy rum and butter glory was gleaming too.
I walked to the cake stand and tapped my fingers to listen to the muted clink against the thick glass. Maybe we will forget the soup, and just eat cake.
There are two types of people in this world—those that buy rum to drink, and those that buy rum to make rum cakes. I am of the latter category, and like-minded rum cake eaters have a tendency to find me. The same with the seasons. I am the only person I know that celebrates the four changes of the year, and yet when I started these parties people came out of the woodwork. If you build it, they will come.
They will come, but things never go quite as expected. I looked irritably in the direction of the soup. Then I caught the sound of the computer screen in the other room. The children had been sitting in front of a screen for the last three hours so that I could put together the party. Guilt nagged at me. Was the party selfish? Wouldn’t it have been better to celebrate the passage of time with the children, rather than having them celebrate part of the holiday with a video?
You suck, I thought as I turned toward the bottle opener and slowly forced the combination of metal and cork. I don’t drink, but other people do, and things never go quite as expected.
An hour later the voices of kids laughing and shouting were like the music of summer. Sweat was dripping down me, but I wasn’t alone in my sweat. And the soup was certainly not alone either. The dining room table was cluttered with random bowls of different foods brought by different people. Back outside, the nonexistent bird poop looked as though it had never been sitting on the pool bar. In its place different colored glasses and bottles shined in the sunlight, making that clash again, like the trademark of the summer solstice.
With one glass of wine in and more of the glistening liquid swirling around the glass in my hand, life suddenly made sense. I had a fleeting thought of the soup, prompting me to twist my lips in thought of that ham. Pink does not go in yellow soup, you made the right mistake. And the poop? A bird has to poop somewhere. The TV? Kids should have to take backstage sometimes so that when they are parents they don’t fault themselves for also just being adults.
The adult voices humming away behind the music of the children were something like the buzz of the bees working the crepe myrtle flowers. The yard was alive with human activity, and it was strangely peaceful. It wasn’t quite as expected, but it felt good to have built something.
I watched the sweat trickle down my thigh. Sweet summer solstice sweat.