A Summer Without Parks

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Cuffer Prize 2013

By Aley Waterman
Honourable mention for the Cuffer Prize 2013
Here are some things I can’t remember not having: a pair of fingernail clippers, a baby hairbrush, an owner’s manual for a CD player that I lost.

Coffee press. — Thinkstock photo

You have to pour the water from pretty high up if you want it to be good, and then stir slowly after each of the three pours, but not too slowly because you’ll over extract it.

Like this?

No, that’s too slow. It has to be firm and certain. Pretend you know what you’re doing even if you don’t. I find that helps.

Was that OK?

Yeah, that was better.

Do you think it’ll be OK?

Yeah, I think so.

Let me know when it’s done.

Yeah OK, I know.

How my roommate didn’t know how to make a French press after drinking coffee for so long was beyond me. She was always expecting me to teach her something.

We had to wait three and a half minutes for it to be ready, so I went outside for a cigarette. Then, the rumbling metallic sounds from across the street reminded me of what I wanted to forget: this year, the city had decided to spend the whole summer revamping Bannerman Park to turn it into some spectacular yuppie carnival dreamland.

The musty gazebo bandstand would be replaced by a large outdoor theatre, and there would be waterslides, a winter ice rink, and so on.

I walked the stone’s throw down and across the street to look at the mounted billboard full of hyper-realistic computer animated pictures of what this current mass of rocks and dirt and heavy machines would soon be. One kid lifted his arms as he was descending the waterslide, and in the corner, a young girl sat next to a tree, petting someone else’s dog. Even these people looked real, but I didn’t recognize any of them.  

A carved knife, a broken watch, a picture of a purple creature holding another purple creature’s head.

I had to wait a minute to cross back over to the house, because there’s always so much traffic on Military Road. Hollis stood on the steps like some kid, waiting like she did. Sometimes one of us would get upset when the other was out too late, or gone too long, even though we didn’t have plans. If I stayed at a boy’s house for too long, she would refuse to put my dishes in the dishwasher. If she did, I would borrow her best dresses without asking.

Can I press it down now?

You can press it down. Slowly, though.

How slow?

As slow as you want, as long as it’s slow.

I have to go out soon.

I know.

Hollis laid her hand on the top of the press and commenced the descent at a snail pace, like she was barely pressing at all. I had nowhere to be, but she liked to take advantage of my time.

See what we have to put up with? All this traffic and we barely have any neighbours.

We have lots of neighbours.

Yeah but only on one side of the road. We have half as many as most people.

It’s not like we talk to any of them.

Yeah, but we’d make more of an effort if we had more.

And now we can’t even go to the park. Why didn’t they wait until the fall for all of this?

Yeah.

Can you grab some mugs? Do you want to sit out here for a bit?

Sure.

My favourite one’s in the dishwasher, but it’s clean.

I know the one. I was going to get you that one anyways.

A bee was hovering over our hanging rosebush for what seemed like forever before finally landing. It was OK, though, because he knew what he was doing.

A mason jar full of pins and buttons, a magnifying glass, a recurring dream where I sit at the airport eagerly awaiting a horse.

The step next to our front door was a space for deep Philosophical Thought and Self-Discovery. Often we would linger there too long, like those moments after washing during a long shower where you just stand there, wondering.

We weren’t the type of roommates who sat in silence much. Instead there were different areas of the house that went to different conversations, unnoticed.

The kitchen was for conversation About Our Day. Usually my room, which was like the living room because we didn’t have one, was for Relationship Advice and How Much We Hate Our Jobs. There used to be rooms for How do You Really Feel, and You Look Really Nice, and Valuable Input, but those doors closed slowly.

The hallway and outside the bathroom was What are You Doing Tonight, and the small top floor nothing room with the chair was Music and Do You Want to go for a Smoke?

Hollis, do you think there’s such thing as nostalgia for something that doesn’t really exist?

You ask me shit like this too often. I dunno.

I feel that way lots. Some dreams make me feel like that, when I wake up. Like I miss something, or I did, in the dream, and I want to go back to it, but I’m not sure really what it is.

A phantom limb itch.

Kind of.

All nostalgia is largely for something that doesn’t really exist, though, really. You know that.

Yeah, I know.

I imagined myself on days off, going to the park and sitting all day and reading. This would be a good summer. A Great Summer. I would play Frisbee. Obviously Hollis would be there, but I would make friends. New people, like the ones on the billboard, still and content in what they were doing.

There aren’t many new people in downtown St. John’s, but these people would be new and different and good. There would be no getting up or going or leaving, just all of us, there. Not restless or hungover.

Not unsatisfied. Not making plans. These were the plans.

This coffee isn’t too bad for your first time.

It seems hard to mess up.

Well it’s not, really. It’s actually quite touchy. I guess working at a coffee shop has made me hyperaware of the specifics. Like if you’re OK with it being over-extracted or you don’t notice or whatever then you could make it however you wanted and it would be fine.

I guess, but I’d rather make it properly.

I don’t understand how you didn’t know how to make French press, though. I mean doesn’t everyone?

Well there must have been a time when you didn’t know how to make it. Knowing you, you probably learned and then immediately judged everyone else who couldn’t do it properly.

That’s not nice to say.

I’m sorry. I’m in a shitty mood.

It’s OK.

It’s still weird that you didn’t know how to make it though.

Yeah, whatever. I know.

A porcelain mug, a fanny pack with raisins on it that says “Raisin Hell in Cancun,” an old camera that I’ve never used.

I went to scratch my foot with my other foot and accidentally knocked over both my coffee and the French press, which was still half full. It didn’t break, but the top part caught on the step as the bottom part fell, and grinds started to fall out, mixing with the spilled coffee.

Gross.

It’s not really gross, it’s just coffee grinds.

Yeah, but lots of things are situationally gross.

Like what?

Like garlic. Like this.

Why garlic?

Like if you put the garlic press in the sink and then you have to look at it after you do the dishes — which you do all the time — when the little garlic sheet gets caught in the drain. It’s the worst.

This isn’t like that.

To me it is.

That’s weird.

Shut up. I know.

For a moment the bulldozer across the street was so loud that we couldn’t even hear each other, which was OK. We spent too much time together.

Some days we said things to each other that sounded mean but were in a jokey tone so they weren’t mean. Some days we said those same things in a different tone and they weren’t jokey. This was one of those days.

I just feel cheated though, you know?

Because of the park stuff?

Yeah.

Well it’s not like it’s your park.

Yeah but it feels like it is. We live right next to it.

That doesn’t mean it belongs to us though.

Well I feel like we’re entitled to it in some way.

I’ve lived with you for three summers, and you’ve not once been to the park.

It’s true.

I know.

Aley Waterman is an English student at Memorial University who is working on her honours thesis. She has had poems published in the Paragon and has received some awards for songwriting, including a Music NL grant, but is just starting to delve into writing fiction. She plans to do her master’s in English in the fall. She lives in downtown St. John’s with friends and cats.

Geographic location: Bannerman Park, Military Road, Cancun

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