Sunlight bakes into Kingston’s beach. The sand burns. Bronze bodies stretch on towels. Kids splash in the water. Heat soaks into my black shirt and hat. Sweat drips along seams and runs across my skin.
I pack the boat half conscious. Sunscreen stings my eyes. I rub it away with a forearm and shove equipment into hatches. The heat makes me dizzy.
The sky is all blue and sun. The air feels hot in my lungs. Thick. My skin crawls with sweat. I drink half my water before I drag the boat into the river. A quarter mile later it’s gone.
I glance at the sun reflecting off the water. I stare at the empty bottle in my hands and try to remember what cold felt like, how the tips of my fingers went numb one joint after another, how the water punched at my chest and turned my skin pale white.
Memories don’t quench thirst. They have no bite. Cold is all theory. A concept. Something that existed once on a river long ago.
Beads of sweat run down my face. The sun burns and burns. But somehow I know. I feel it, just a shave of seconds, a thin, sliver of darkness carving away at the ends of the day, biting at the edges. The days are shrinking again.
Winter has turned the corner.
I try and hold that image in my mind as the sun beats into me, as my skin turns red and hot, as I dip my hands in the water to cool. The door is sliding shut somewhere, somewhere far to the north, somewhere where the sun hasn’t set all summer. It’s sliding shut, closing bit by bit. Waiting for its second chance to slam down on top of me.
The race is on, it always has been, and I’ve got to win.