Back then—way back, when summers were hotter than they are now, and nothing happened, and the air held totally still—when the summers were silent, when the surface of the lake was so blue and so still that the waterbugs skittered over the water’s tight skin—and the thick-leaved trees were a surreal green, and their branches hung heavy with overripe fruit, not a single breeze causing even the slightest lift and fall of their arms, not even a sway—that first summer you spent in the prairie, when summer was endless, and the days flowed into one another, the days never began or ended at all, time drifted in circles, it was all one slow-moving, impossible day—back when the churr and bzzz of the cicadas filled the stillness with a constant, unstoppable scream, and the birds fell silent in the heat—
that was when the world turned slower than it does now, and the world was only as large as the blue house at the end of Nancy Lane. The world was an airy sunlit few rooms, and it was always very still, a soundless aerie of books and dust motes spinning in the flood of white light through the windows that looked out on the still blue lake where waterbugs skittered and cicadas ceaselessly screamed—that was when the universe was not infinite at all, but finite, absolute: it went to the end of the lane, crossed the broken path through the cattails and swamp, stretched over the bridge and extended as far as the neighborhood pool. You bellied down in the dry grass by the sand by the still lake. You lay totally still watching the bugs of the prairie, and you slept or did not sleep, it didn’t matter, it was all the same. Your bare feet, all callous, skittered over the burning concrete, over the burning grass. Everything smelled of melted tar and lake fish and water weed and heat. Everything was easy. Nothing ended. Nothing began.