Colvill Park 1976,
by Renee Gilmore

It’s 8:00 AM on a Tuesday morning, in a small Minnesota town, in the summer of freedom. Our parents signed us up weeks ago, both to keep us from drowning in the river, and to keep us from asking what’s there to do fifty times a day. We gather outside the ancient concrete building, yawning, all bony arms and legs, shag haircuts and red, white, and blue t-shirts, flagging the bicentennial. We file in, boys on one side, girls on the other, and each grab a wire basket off the metal counter to hold our street clothes for the next hour. We change quickly in the locker rooms, our feet already starting to prune on the cold, wet, concrete floor. We try to ignore the bodies around us, naked and awkward, as we maneuver under towels, dump our clothes into our baskets, and poke the large metal safety pin with the basket number into the hip or shoulder of our swimsuits. We dump the baskets back on the counter with a thump, to be shelved by the bored teenage attendants. We dash through the cold showers and insist we are clean.

Whistles blow and lessons commence. We’re ordered into the blue sea of a pool – Olympic sized, unheated. We’ve already learned that easing in to the water is the worst idea. We jump in and cling to the rough sides of the pool, dozens of us, like shipwrecked sailors hoping for a miracle. Goosebumps form on our scrawny arms, and the lifeguards shriek their whistles if a swimmer appeared to be drowning (themselves or someone else).

American crawl, sidestroke, butterfly were our currency. We hoped to earn another Red Cross card by the end of the summer. Fish to Flying Fish. Flying Fish to Shark. Permission to fly off the highest diving board was our gold standard. After an hour of instruction of dubious quality, mostly by hungover college students, a disembodied voice announced over the crackling loudspeaker that our time was up and to leave the pool – no running. We crowded the counter like puppies, to retrieve our baskets of street clothes, damp bodies in towels, jostling and pushing, smelling of chlorine and unbrushed teeth.

Once dressed, wet swimsuits in plastic bags, stringy hair in our eyes, we stampede the snack bar. The kids with money get Snickers bars and ice cream sandwiches, while the rest of us buy banana Laffy Taffy or root beer Popsicles.

We sit at picnic tables or on the matted grass, or walk around the park, comrades-in-arms after the morning’s session. We wait for the parade of parents and grandparents in sedans and station wagons, some eager to hear about the morning’s lesson, and others, calculating the minutes until they had to be back at work. 

We all head home, back to the endless possibilities that only summer vacation can bring. September felt years away, and our only jobs are running through the sprinklers, and orchestrating complicated sleepovers like they are military maneuvers. We talk our dads into grilling hotdogs for dinner, and play kickball until the streetlights came on, our signal that the day has ended and it is time for bed.    

Last Trip to Drive Sol,
by Bobbi Rae

If you asked us where Drive Sol was, we wouldn’t have been able to say. Somewhere between afternoon bike rides, making out with girls on the bench behind Sunoco, and romps in the backseat of Evan’s Buick. We’d be quick to say it didn’t really matter.

Our first trip to Drive Sol was against a rising summer sun, Red Hot Chilli Peppers echoing across the soy fields. We were dreaming of Ohiofornication. We were Hollywood, living our teenage years trapped in a fantasy of super stardom and wasted youth, convinced that we were it, and nobody was going to tell us any different.

We called it our “brown route.” It was straight roads and potholes, crooked barns and quarries. All said, the route took us an hour through Southeast Michigan and Northwest Ohio. Two, if we pulled over to take a leak or shoot the breeze over a Natty tall boy. Our brown route was for sticking our heads out the window and screaming our angst at sixty miles an hour and putting our little suburban prison as far behind us as we could. It was for smoking middies and getting high off inconsequential middle-class rebellions.

If you asked us why Drive Sol, we wouldn’t have had the slightest clue, but we found ourselves back there three times that summer. It was a calling, a pull of gravity we were too weak to resist.

That first trip, it was just three of us. We pulled off the road, into the overgrown parking lot, and sat at the edge of the grass, swatting mosquitos as we watched the afternoon pass us by. From what we could tell, it was just another abandoned manufacturing dump, another business forgotten in a post-industrial age, an oasis kitty-corner to a place where everyone knew your name.

We pieced cigarettes and told stories, listened to the distant whisper of traffic from Route 20, and sat closer than we’d have liked to admit. Friendship at that age was superficial, fleeting. Except at Drive Sol. At Drive Sol, everything lasted forever.

As the sun set, the sky faded to a deep, dark purple, speckled with stars who shared the small secrets of the universe. They were mirrored by a thousand fireflies, where we were no longer sure which way was up and which way was down.

We left Drive Sol when we ran out of Kools and nobody had anything left to say. We left knowing we’d be back, sooner rather than later.

Our second trip, we came in a fleet of Daddy’s convertibles and junkyard picks with a case of Natty Light, a fifth of Bacardi, mixtapes burned off LimeWire, and a longing to dance the night away. We kept Evan’s car running until its battery died, bumpin’ Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and TI, singing along to The Offspring and Reel Big Fish loud enough for the cows to hear. We started a fire near Drive Sol’s back bays. Someone brought firewood, and we all brought fire.

It was Friday night, and we stayed until the sun came up, laughing, drinking, smoking, screwing. We stayed until the last drop, then we went our separate ways, dispersing into morning like startled starlings, flying away to find our own proverbial worms, whatever those might be.

Our third trip ended in flashing red and blue. For most of us, it was only the beginning.

We were young. We were stupid. We were blind to obvious signs: the farmhouse across the street, the chickens stirring in their coop, the suspicious parting of miniblinds. Drive Sol itself was not as abandoned as we’d thought. People worked there and surely wondered what the hell was going on in their parking lot after they punched out for the weekend, but we didn’t notice the security cameras they had installed.

Most of all, we were blind to the fact that we were not infallible.

We showed up in the Buick, just the three of us, ready for another consequence-free good time. Evan had just bought an AK from the firearms shop across the tracks. We had walked there after school. None of us had ever shot a gun before, but we were bulletproof. So, we loaded it up and fired off round after round into the fields surrounding Drive Sol.

We never found out what happened to that gun, but we know what happened to Evan. We were lucky, in a sense. He was the only one of us plucked from youth that day.

That’s the funny thing about growing up, isn’t it? Most of us come out on the other side, battered and bruised but more or less better off for our mistakes. But some of us? Well, some of us get stuck in that one summer, no matter how much time passes or how much distance we put between ourselves and the people we leave behind.

Some of us never leave Drive Sol, but if you ask us why, we won’t be able to say.