It’s imperative that I write this now, before the bridge has officially been crossed into fall and these two worlds separate for the remainder of the year.
It’s been 5 weeks since the death of Bridgemania, since our buses left Indy, since I said the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever had to say. And in these past 5 weeks, I have still been in drum corps mode. The memories I have of the summer are still strong enough to take me back to the field. The agony of frustration still stings, the heat of anger still pulses under my skin. My gut still hurts from all the times I laughed until I couldn’t breathe. The joy and fun of an impromptu kazoo parade is still riddled by the ridiculous pain of having to carry my tuba at the same time. The thunder of the crowd still knocks me back a step, and the tears I couldn’t cry still well up in my throat.
Eventually, as an autumn autumns on, the memory of tour life feels like a dream. Like a part of existence that doesn’t quite seem to have happened in the same lifetime. And yet, you know it did happen. You know you weren’t the same person that you are now that you were at the beginning of summer, and you know because you are braver. Maybe you are kinder, maybe more aggressive, maybe more willing to love, or more willing to speak out against all the bullshit you see. Maybe you eat more food in anticipation of a rehearsal block you’re not actually going to have.
The effects of the summer are far greater than I thought they would be. I am kinder. More assertive. I feel more loved, and it makes all the difference in the world to me. Bridgemania, from November to September, is its own tale in my life. It is a tale of drum corps: frustration and discomfort and stress, passion, laughter, friendship, and ultimatums. It is a tale of being torn apart and learning to put myself back together again.
It still feels real, and I know my time to not feel it as a dream is limited. The life of a “normal” world: college life, struggling to sit still in class, knowing when the days end and begin is as vivid to me as tour life, where my prime responsibility every morning was eating enough in the morning to last me until lunch, filling my water jug. Trying not to screw up. Keeping my legs straight. Hoping it wasn’t a “run Tell William 13 times in a row” kind of day. I am still in two worlds.
Even though most of the rest of the world doesn’t march in a drum corps, we all know what summer is. We all accept that summer will come to an end.
The previous week brought the last plague of summer to Delaware. Heavy, hot water air, with a sun that never went out. Oppressive heat that knocked you down. The water trapped the heat and it was only hotter the next day. There was no cool at night.
Tension built as the late summer September continued. The atmosphere called for an endgame. The world cried out for an autumn.
Last Saturday marked the second home game of the season. Upon finishing up the pre-game festivities, the band arrived into our section of the stands. In Delaware stadium, you will always have a fantastic view of the sky. And here we were, standing on the sky-bridge bleachers in the middle of a rifted day that so wanted to be autumn but remained a prisoner of its own heat.
The cloud cover coasted overhead; only a sky-window of blue remained in the north end of the stadium and then it, too was gone. The darker clouds we couldn’t track the movement of; they came closer and closer when we weren’t looking. The stadium thrummed with an apocalyptic energy no one could explain. Cold whistle winds of storm darted beneath our ears. The jumbotron flashed its end of the world warning sign: an exclamation point in a flashing triangle, announcing the approach of electrical storms.
We descended from the sky-bridge stands to warmups outside the stadium, fat raindrops splatting heedlessly into the sidewalk. We entered the field, with the cold wind writhing and the raindrops still splattering and the sky scooting darkness as far as we could see. The atmospheric pressure levels fought for an autumn.
Del State’s band took the field for halftime. Not 45 seconds into the show, the jumbotron lit up again, flashing its game-over sign and its stinging images of lightning . Electrical storm approaching, evacuate stadium.
While the battle of summer and autumn reached the point of no return, we, the band, turned to each other, shrugged, and walked calmly into the Bob Carpenter Center arena. The arena of tournament volleyball players stood flabbergasted as their audience exploded from seventeen to six hundred. The doors closed behind us as it began to pour. And summer was dead.
After the game, we turned off our fans in our un-air-conditioned dorm rooms, put on sweatpants and declared the beginning of fall.
But not me. The weather may hover only in the seventies and sixties, but the breeze I feel is still warm. I remain in summer still, but not for long. No one in my dorm complex recognizes me with a shirt on, but I’ve forgotten what it is to sit on a seat top in my underwear in a bus without air conditioning with water draining from my skin, the air too thick to breathe. The sun still warms the turf at 5:45 pm on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and my posture is great and the music is alive, but all I feel is band, and band is autumn, and autumn IS band. And autumn is wonderful, but autumn is not summer.
In summer time, every day can be an adventure, if you want. Every moment you have is one to appreciate the earth as it is. You have energy, all the time, if you want to. Your emotions are stronger and more beautiful and more terrible to bear. The nights are never cold, and your blood always runs hot. And that’s why drum corps never feels real looking back, because in the summer you become a hot-blooded little dancing fairy that experiences life to its fullest extent, all the time, if you want.
I can’t escape autumn. I wouldn’t want to escape. I need the days to grow cold and dark, and I need the leaves to turn beautiful and die. I need to reflect on what I’ve become……
For as long as I can remember, I have never been able to sit still. When I need to dream, I don’t go to sleep. I turn away from my computer, I leave my room, I go for a run, and suddenly, everything I wish to be real comes true.
The seasons are irrelevant. My blood will always run hot.