Sweet Summer Night
The square, yellow, high-powered lights buzzed from the awning that covered the gas pumps. Far down the row of parking spaces that bordered the convenience store, several spaces away from peoples' gaze, Toby sat in his car. The engine was off, as was the dome light. The summer night's air wafted in through the window, and he took a deep breath feeling the humidity in the back of his throat as he watched moths ram themselves into the lights. The moist air wet his skin and sweat beaded on his upper lip. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a green handkerchief. While he thought of the man he'd borrowed it from years ago he wiped the sweat from his face. Toby grabbed the drink in his cup holder. It was dripping with condensation, and he lazily let a few drops fall onto his pants. He put the tip of the straw to his nose, and through it he smelled sugar, cherries, summer. As he'd only put a couple of ice cubes in it, the soda was already getting warm, but it felt good running across his tongue. He thought of backyard patios lit by porch lights; of running across moonlit lawns with the other kids while their parents drank and laughed, of talking to his friends in their clubhouse just outside the ring of yellow light and country music. His own kids had made no such memories. There were no dares to pick up June bugs; to see how long you could hold them as they scampered around in your hand. There was no chasing of fireflies, or the sweet, burnt smell of late-night barbecue. Toby and his wife had always been too busy – too stressed – for that. They had no friends to drink beer and gossip with on a hot, sticky night. The sound of his ignition was piercing and intrusive. He pulled out of the gas station by the back way; the winding, quiet, dark way. Trees soon blocked the nearby highway and now there was only him, his headlights, and the occasional house. He drank in as much of the warm, moist air as he could, and even reveled in the cacophony of crickets and tree frogs not daring to turn on the radio to compete with their music. No matter how long of a road he took; no matter how circuitous a route – it would inevitably lead him to a wife he married too young, kids he'd had too early, and a white-walled, brightly lit, air-conditioned box he could barely afford. But for now he had the road, a soda, and the heavy summer air.