Pattern and Forecast

Summer 2018, Northern Hemisphere

This is the first entry in a new series in which writers give a report on the weather. Any meteorological statements made may range from the personal to the scientific, from observable weather to the felt.

Summer began in a squall, with Stormy Daniels and bouts of rain. It drizzled throughout June in New York and was cold. I thought of the adult film star’s feud with Rudy Giuliani as the sign under which this summer 2018 was born—ominous, yet a birth with strong character. The president’s addled lawyer had said, “How could she be damaged?” Who among us wasn’t? I left in the middle of the month and went to stay on Lake Geneva with a handsome friend who lives in a squat near the water. (Squats are subsidized by the city, go figure.) We sat in his yard while bats beat the hot air above us. We zipped through cigarettes, drank bad whiskey, listened to the pleas of a woman who was, tragically enough, in love with my friend’s roommate. She had come from some far city beyond the Alps to beg her disinterested ex-girlfriend for reconciliation, but to no avail. I had seen that teary face before: shattered by refusal. The air sweated around her. Love, like weather, sweeps us up.

Summer can be so sentimental: you either fall in love or out of it. I failed to do the former and managed the latter only once, but I’ll spare the record his name. Prolonged exposure to the sun produces a hormonal spurt in our bodies, and this is why we change most from June to August. Perhaps this is why so many of us fall in or out of love then, too, usually only feeling the results of it in fall. Coming into September, you’re refreshed, anew. Jacolby told me he “felt the winds of autumn” in July. I suppose it’s a state of mind, between equinox and solstice.

We were in a heatwave, and Europe was burning. Fire ate through Greece, Sweden. Fire ate through California, too, and probably other landscapes in other countries I have no immediate connection to, except through the flows of news. The Spanish novelist Javier Marías writes that landscape brings repose only to those who are weary. I sank into earth wherever I went, though I was never tired, only lonely: I sank into the cold water of Lake Geneva, the desert of southern California, the buggy Swedish countryside, unseasonably warm England, and finally Montana, wreathed in smoke from the torched west. In each the wind, the sound of night was different—this is weather. I cycled through American states and European countries across the summer, for friends and for work, and withstood a brook of storms, hot mornings, cloudy afternoons, clear evenings. Thunderstorms, bursts of cold. I was mostly interested in the fronts moving between friends, strangers, and lovers whom I encountered on my trips.

In Stockholm, I held up Cajsa while she rode Raúl’s back on her wedding night and Stewart danced at my side. I called Barbara, who was on holiday in Provincetown. She sent me a photo of shadows, her pup in a lake. Julien and I had pizza on my roof and I watched him urinate at sundown, a thick jet of gold splashing against the floor’s silvery surface. (This earned me a citation from my peeping landlord.) Lynne sent me photos of Basie, her kid-sized cat that loves to lay its sweeping form across her couch. Nancy and Austin and I stayed up till nearly sunrise in an LA backyard, talking about—talking about what? I don’t remember, only that I needed a sweater. I went to bed with a Frenchman in August, only days before he was set to return to his small town outside Marseille. He told me he never went to the water. I told him that was all I ever wanted to do; I even biked three times to the Rockaways in July, from my place on Fulton Street to Sheepshead Bay, through Plumb Beach, to Riis. “Awfully pretty,” Charlie had said while we rode across the bridge linking islands, on his last weekend before moving to West Hollywood. Shiv went to Portugal and wrote, “First thing I see on a beach is an old man lying down furiously jerking off.”

What will happen to the world when the seasons end? I imagine glass boxes simulating spring, summer, fall, and winter in malls across a scorched America. (Light narration written and voiced by Karl Ove Knausgård: each season a sentence, finally contained within the neat confines of language, and no longer free to roam the land.) I was stunned, one winter a decade ago, when at an airport I paid five dollars to “experience” the weather in Hong Kong. The attendant locked me in a blue, phonebooth-sized chamber in the middle of the terminal and asked, “Are you ready?” As ever. He turned the key and left me to the dark. I wondered, What would China be like? Or rather, what would this box think China was like? My mind settled into a blankness. I was weary: I wanted the heat.

The gimmick hissed, releasing hot, humid air. A set of overhead lights, like the alien belly of a UFO, illuminated orange and red, while the sounds of boats, tinging bells, chatter, birds and dogs, cars, and music emitted from speakers above me. The experience didn’t account for smell, which I was grateful for; I couldn’t imagine how vulgar a perfume of garbage and food and body odor it might conjure, the smelly stuff of cities everywhere and, worse, how long it might linger on my clothes. I got wet in the dark. This was China? Outside, the box advertised itself as having the same atmosphere, the same temperature, the same humidity as Hong Kong. But it wasn’t Hong Kong, would never be Hong Kong; it was just a box in an airport with me inside it. I thought of nothing, or I thought only of elsewhere—of summer. Building hurricanes, and airy beaches. That day, it was snowing across the East Coast, but in the box, it would never, ever snow. The attendant released me, and I went about my day.

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