Latency Period: Summer Blues

Editor Daniel Elder, Editor's Choice, July 28th, 2017

"I imagine myself swaddled once again in cozy thick fabrics in front of a fireplace."

Daniel Elder Essay Nailed Magazine
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Our monthly column “Latency Period” is made up of reflections on the gaps in our lives–whether between life and death, between perception and reality, or between one human being and another–and trying to bridge those gaps with words. Written by Daniel Elder, for NAILED.

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Summertime. The sun is shining. The grass is green. The sky is blue. You know the drill.

I hide in my basement, where it’s significantly cooler. Sun filters in faded and diluted through windows that only come partway above ground level. It’s shadowy all day. I feel safer down there, wearing a hoodie and drinking hot tea.

Mostly I spend summer waiting for winter, and the autumnal bridge we cross to get to it. I think I’ve felt this way about summer for years, but when I lived in New York City it was easy to forget about the summer doldrums by throwing myself into my then-favorite pastime: hedonism. Drink and drugs and staying up to see the sunrise were a fine way to keep the blues at bay. The centrifugal force of the city itself seemed to push darkness to the edges.

At work, the air conditioner vents down right above my head. I guess it’s better than being outside in the blistering heat, but really none of this is ideal. Fake air, hot sun. Between tasks, I shop for cardigans online. I imagine myself swaddled once again in cozy thick fabrics in front of a fireplace.

Studies show that a significant number of people suffer from summertime depression. It may very well be biological, rooted in the brain. All this light, screwing with my melatonin production. Ten years ago I got a molecule tattooed into my forearm, an indole ring. Indole is a common structure to all tryptamines, and when I chose it I was thinking mostly of serotonin and the tryptamine psychedelics. Now, on lazy summer days hiding in my basement I trace my fingers over the molecule’s geometry and I think about melatonin and the cloud pressing in on my brain.

That’s what it feels like. While so many of you bask in the sun, I’m in a cloud, and when the mornings are cloudy, I am filled with light.

I do the summer things, I do. I get out on my bicycle. I ride to the bluffs and I sit in the shade and I watch the world do its colorful thing. I have fun, even as sweat prickles all over my body. I go along for the hike to the waterfall. I climb among the trees. I glory in it all. And I look so happy. I’m predisposed to smiling, it’s just my way. But I swear that all of this is very hard.

What does it feel like? Like a perpetual hangover. A hangover I can’t control by not drinking, because it’s nothing I do to myself. It’s sun and heat and time working me over. My body gets out of bed but my soul stays there, and I need to expend a massive amount of energy to keep the two of them together. I heft my soul over my shoulder and carry it around, half-dragging it as I move through my day. It’s a wonder I can focus on anything at all.

Portland had a brutal winter thisyear – the cloudiest, rainiest in 75 years. At one point, something like thirty days elapsed without the sun peeking through. It’s good to see it again, but does it have to be so ever-present? Such a tyrant, that sun. A big flaming ball of should. You should go outside, you should frolic, you should, you should, you should.

You should feel happy!

I will, don’t worry. The rain will come. It can’t stay sunny all the time.

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Header image courtesy of Anne Nawrocka. To view her photo essay, “Sleepless Curbsides,” go here.

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Daniel Elder

Daniel Elder is a New York City native who now calls Portland home. He is the author of a self-published collection of essays and is currently revising a novella. He lives in an attic with his cat, Terence.