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The Burden of Home

by Aaron Gilbreath

Sometime in fifth grade, just before North Shore came out, I bought a bodyboard and learned to ride waves pretty well. At home, I covered my bedroom walls with images clipped from surf magazines: black sand and palm groves; bronze women in bikinis splashing through azure water. I stuck surf stickers on my door, corny ones that said Body Glove and Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax in blinding pink and yellow fonts. When I lay in bed at night, I pictured myself sleeping in a thatched hut and drinking from coconuts. I taped a quotation from an ad on my door: “Summer is an attitude not a season.” And I wore only shorts, even in winters that reached the low forties. When my parents dropped me off at middle school, I gathered with my friends on the playground before class. Condensation frosted the tetherball pole. Crystallized dew coated the brown winter grass. And I’d stand there shivering with my arms crossed, wearing shorts and a flannel and a hooded Vans sweater, watching my breath. At one point, I asked my parents if we could replace my bedroom’s brown carpet with beach sand. They asked where the bed would go. “We’ll build wooden boardwalks around the edges,” I explained, “with one plank diagonally across the middle for the bed.” And how would I avoid dragging sand into the rest of the house? “I’ll wipe my feet every time I leave my room.” The brown carpet stayed.

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