D.T. Pennington

Writer – Photographer – Creative Coach

Notes on: The Summer Cold

The joke I tell people: I could break a sweat sitting at the keyboard. And most days, this is true. I am a person who sweats profusely. Find me on a stroll downtown, go in for a hug, and the back of my shirt will be the kind of damp where you feel rude if you mention it to me (don’t worry, I know, you aren’t smelling too great yourself). Even the “easy days” result in a puddle of soaked polyester and spandex on the corner of the bathroom floor. Why I moved to the Carolinas and away from the dry, high chapparal climates of Colorado is beyond me. If it rains all night, I’ll sweat through the morning until I finally give in and kick over the air conditioning at 9 in the morning. It feels like sacrilege. I don’t need a chilling; I just need the stickiness of the endless humidity to go away.

Today there is no relief. Combine the experience of life with a persistent, low-grade fever and now your skin is “dewy” with the perspiration of sitting upright. My air is still conditioned, I watch my electric bill tick up by the hour. The little sunflower that depicts my carbon footprint wilts a little more. Look at him, he’s frowning. I will need more air conditioning next year and it is all my fault. Sorry, buddy.

There is still work to do. Manuscripts to fix and copy to adjust. There is a pile of content to ideate and a list of subscribers who are waiting to hear something from me. Grand visions need building and executing. My ass is in the chair, in the sweaty studio that looks out over the sprawling, endless, and uncontrollable mid-August Asheville Jungle. The drugs keep me upright and focused. Two parts Dexedrine, five parts dextromethorphan, three parts doxylamine, drink it down with some cold coffee and you’re good for the morning. It is nothing any sane doctor would recommend, but the hours melt away and the words pile up and the little checkmarks on my to-do list appear.

Look, shit is getting done. My face feels dry. My eyes water. I asked for all of this.

In the winter, you can hide. You can hibernate with garbage TV under piles of blankets. The days aren’t much, the sun running away just as quickly as it arrived. Few people expect anything of you in the winter because the holidays get in the way and travel is a nightmare and do you really want to go outside? In the winter, the head cold flu whatever makes plenty of sense if you can get away with it. Let it hit you, take the free psychedelic ride that comes with slightly toasted brain matter and see what comes out the other side.

Summer is when the ants and squirrels hunt and hoard for the winter. Summer is when we are reminded that there is something outside the death of winter. And this summer was supposed to be a low-gear summer. Reading books and swinging in the hammock and seeing where things went. The 15-hour work week, less if you can get it. But the doctor shows up with some shit news so now you are biking 40+ miles a week and spending hours in the gym telling yourself that if the body looks good on the outside then there is no way it can be rotten within. When it comes to the business, to OutWord, you try to ease off the gas a little. But the gas wasn’t there to keep up with the competition, it was to keep you ahead of people who wanted to work with you. Now that you’ve slowed down a bit they all want to keep up with you and I hope I can find a way to close off this metaphor. When it comes to money, the less I chase it the more it shows up. Theory: the “grind” is just a way of convincing yourself you “did all you could” for the result that was going to show up anyway. Consciously, this is exactly what I wanted and needed. This is perfect. There are seven cars parked on my lawn and in my driveway. The guest rooms are full, the lawn is a campground, our guest bathroom doesn’t know what hit it. Strangers becoming friends, festivals, bike rides from one stage to the next and of course we’ll have a beer or four here and there. The clock strikes two, then three, then the dog reminds me she eats at 7.

Why wouldn’t I wake up with a sore throat?

I go to the CVS near my house because the managers there still wear masks so I don’t feel as out of place when I wear mine – protecting you from me – to dig through the chaotically stocked shelves of cold medicine. The pharmacist thinks maybe I’d be better off with allergy relief. “Ragweed is early this year,” he says. You’re never ready for the summer cold. It arrives out of nowhere, coughed into your face by someone who looks totally fine. Next thing you know you’re blowing your nose through the household stock of toilet paper. Get the tissues with the aloe, splurge, buy ten boxes and keep them on hand for the next time this inevitably shows up.

It’s the sun, I think, that makes the summer cold so unbearable. The sun that lures you outside and into the gardens and onto the patios to admire bare shoulders and bright smiles and sultry stares from behind dark sunglasses. It’s the sun that asks you to put aside that weird little headache and the tickle in the back of your throat because your friends are grabbing two cases of seltzer and tubing the river for the next few hours and there is something empowering about seeing people you know relaxed and comfortable in their swimwear. You go, because you know that a few drinks on top of the cold medicine will get everything lined up just right. The sore throat is numbed, and you get the kind of dehydrated where your nose can’t run anymore.

And it feels OK.

Another cold is always on the way. For the next one, you can stay home and bury yourself in bed with blankets and re-read page 57 of a novel a dozen times as the double-dose of Nyquil makes its way through you. It’s 8 PM, it is dark outside. You may as well give up for the day. It feels OK.