Few summers compare to the one when I was 10. I'd just finished a hellish fourth-grade school year (long division, multiplication tables, fractions), and the welcome relief of a sticky-hot Missouri summer could not come quick enough.
This was the year I finally graduated from the red and black kid-sized bike I got years before to the bitchin' Huffy that my grandpa had been talking about for some time. We rode the Katy Trail together for as long as my legs could handle it — a rite of passage for cyclists in those parts.
I took that bike everywhere: to the park down the street, where I played baseball with some neighborhood kids; to grandma's house by myself for the first time; and to Paul's Market up the street, with a candy selection to rival Willy Wonka's factory.
With a fresh buzz cut, a damn fine gold chain I'd just got for my birthday and a brand new pocket knife that I was finally old enough to carry around, I roamed the neighborhood with impunity.
Then there was the girl up the street. We'd known each other since kindergarten, and though we went to different schools then, we always reunited during the summers. Ninja Turtles on her Super Nintendo, hide-and-seek at my house (she was always faster) and exploring the nearby creek despite strict directions otherwise. I can't say for sure who made the first move, but that summer, we kissed for the first, and only, time.
We lost touch in high school, and she has a few kids now, still in Missouri, I assume. We haven't talked in years, but I wonder if she still remembers.