The warm May evening fairly sizzled with bats. Out from under the crannies of Congress Avenue Bridge, Mexican free-tailed bats slipped out in threes, then tens, then hundreds, and flooded the Austin night, sipping from the skies tens of thousands of pounds of insects, as they did every spring and summer night. I felt at once the tickling of wings behind my ears and began shivering uncontrollably. No, fortunately not a bat—just the flick of a stranger’s ponytail at the back of my neck. But the shivery feeling remained; that contact with a stranger was a switch point in my mind. Any kind of creature, wonderful or mundane, slinked in the nooks and crannies of the city celebrated for its weirdness.
I once dated a bull rider, which is very interesting, I still find. He was at the time no longer a bull rider, he had rather been one in his youth, but this lingered, as you might expect. This was in a part of the country where bull riders are not so rare as they are in the northeast, though still rare enough for people to lean forward when they hear. The only time he visited with my family we played a board game where everyone shouts out words, and would you believe a card came up “Things You Can Ride.” Even this cosmic wink could not keep together two with only the two-step in common. But the two-step itself married me to rambling dancehalls for joyful months after, a sweating Dos Equis in one hand and the other free for the taking.
The other day I was visited by a memory from the early days of my marriage, when my wife and I still lived in the old house on the south side of San Antonio. This was when we were both in our early twenties and nearly broke all the time, always on the verge of eviction from the house we rented for $520 a month. Still, we had a lot of friends back then—more friends than we have now—and these friends were always coming over with bottles of wine and half-finished paintings they wanted to show us, poems they wanted to read us, songs they wanted to play for us. There were a lot of parties back then—parties almost every night—and Madeline and I, still in the early years of our marriage, still childless, were somehow always hosting these parties in our house, though I can’t remember ever sending out formal invitations or even ever shopping in advance for them. They were more like spontaneous affairs, and all we really provided, aside from good will, and a kind of open door policy when it came to strangers, was the house itself.
With July well underway, we’veput together a list of transportive pieces that encapsulate the spirit of summer—the dust above the country roads, the coolness of the waterfronts, the anticipation of autumn, and of course, the sticky, melting sweetness of ice cream. Take a trip through space and time with these summery selections.
“If I’m going to tell you the story of how I lost two people who were closer than blood to me, I have to begin here in Dennett, Texas, during the summer between the sophomore and junior years of my life. This story begins as it ends, with me, Cirilo Izquierdo, waiting for what all of us spend our whole lives waiting for: not to be alone anymore.” — Throw: A Novel, by Rubén Degollado
If I offer you the words contemplative novel, you may not immediately picture—for example—someone getting stabbed in the leg with a pencil. You may not picture a tangle of high schoolers fighting and flirting, fueling rumors and throwing shade and roaming lowrider car shows.
Three Words to Describe the Climate: Sunny, windy, dusty
Best time of the year to visit: Every season in Lubbock has its challenges, but I like it best in either May or September when everything is green and flowering, the hottest days are still either in front of us or past, and the wind is slightly less intense (though it never really goes away).
Tesoro, a blood-bay quarter horse, galloped toward me across the fall grass. The temperature had dipped 25 degrees from a few hours before, the wind’s sharp whine outside the barn colder still. Weather changed that fast in Texas, locals using the expression bluenorther to describe Arctic air charging from the north without stopping.