This Wet Bandanna of Navy Blue

It’s the kind of hot John Prine sang about. 

It got so hot last night, I swear

you couldn’t hardly breathe

I alternate between a cold beer and warm water, the beer was in the icebox, the water sits on the counter. My tank top is thin and cropped, a soft shade of cream that keeps me cooler than if I wore anything else, though it’s streaked with dirt, coffee, and blood from the dryness of my nose. I lifted my finger to the dried blood, and I must’ve touched my right breast. 

I’m standing with the rug pushed back, my bare, reddish-brown toes thick and swollen , and write. I flick away a fly, only to touch a tear of sweat trickling down the back of my leg, carrying with it gray dirt. The shower from yesterday morning in a city campground, the kind where you feel strange getting naked, because you wonder what all has gone on there, a distant memory. Was that only yesterday? 

I wear a wet bandanna of navy blue ‘round my neck, and from time to time, take the pup and cat out to the spigot to douse us all. It’s a rare and wonderfully lonely afternoon, a rarity on the road and our little space that we call home, and the heat forces me to stand still. 

The Lake

It’s always strange when it’s over. The five summers gone, and I still can’t quite put my finger on any of it. Easily surmised as magical, yet to fully express it, one must go. It cannot be aptly described, and my attempts would be poor in comparison to the way it makes me feel. I can show up, disheveled and broken and leave, just a mere two weeks later, anew. My skin takes on the northern sun, a soft tan. My hair, usually tangled and rough, softens in the lake water. 

The first morning

A slow wake, a bit of confusion. The late night arrival didn’t lend itself to association with my surroundings, and I opened my eyes to not the crisp white curve of the Airstream, but the deep red and lofty beams of the cottage. We’re here, I whispered to her. She lay next to me, freckled lips parted, arm pushing back the curls that are so streaked with gray now that I barely remember her otherwise. I love her more in the early mornings sometimes, all bare legs, those long legs and toes, she’s softer. 

I pad to the kitchen, the linoleum cool under my toes as I checked the kettle before filling it, dumping several curled and dried ants into the sink with a swish of the water that is pumped up from the lake - my first interaction with it - before filling and warming to pour over the grounds. 

And then we were all awake with the smell of coffee, and the excitement. We waited for one another, and the three of us made the trek to the dock, followed by a pup eager for a swim.She’s always the first one in, always ready. Sometimes I think she loves the lake too, and she knows it like we know it. It’s familiar to her in the way it is familiar to us, it’s comforting and certain. 

The sun had warmed the weathered boards of the dock, and as we walked, we assessed it, oh, look here - the ice heave certainly pushed this, yes? 

And then at the end, a tug on pant legs. 

How’s the water? Is it cold? 

It’s always cold. We’re up north. 

We never can move, even though we’ve no groceries upstairs and the cottage has been closed for the past year, and there are chores to do and lists of tasks for the first day, and we’ll always begrudgingly do it, but not without lingering so long that our coffee becomes cold and we strip the layers, sometimes down to our skivvies, sometimes even taking the first dip.