Editor’s note: Harriet Reuter Hapgood is the author of the new YA book The Square Root of Summer, about a girl named Gottie who is able to travel through wormholes to her past, present, and future. Harriet shared with us which summer she’d return to if she had the same chances as Gottie.
Toward the end of my second year at university, it hit me: I will never have a summer holiday again. I mean, okay, I’d get the ferry to France for two weeks in June like everyone else in the UK, but after graduation, in the real world of work, there’d never be another academic-length vacation. I had one summer left, and I had a plan: The Ultimate #SoloYolo.
Five weeks in New York, funded by a sleepless month of office temp work, evenings and weekends working in a pub, and every hour in-between, life modeling for art classes. Every penny went into the NYC fund. It wasn’t a lot of pennies, but it got me across an ocean. If I had the chance to travel back in time, this is the summer I would visit, for oh so many reasons.
Reason to Revisit #1: The Food
My budget allowed me to pick two out of three each day: street cart hot dog, pretzel, pizza slice. On this diet, combined with walking all over Manhattan, I got skinny and sunburned. In all the photos, I look like a pepperoni stick. It would be nice to go back and splurge on delicious things to eat.
Reason to Revisit #2: My Enthusiasm
Okay, so I was 21 and energetic and soooo excited to be in New York, from the films! E v e r y t h i n g was charming, from the traffic to the temperature. I was even charmed when, on my first night in my first hostel, I found a cockroach on my bed. A cockroach! Wow! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to revisit an innocent, sweaty summer, when I could be charmed by a cockroach?
Reason to Revisit #3: The Boys
There was the one I kissed in the rain in Chelsea . . . The one who went with me to the ER on the Upper East Side (more on this later) . . . And then there was the one with long, fluttery eyelashes . . . He batted them at me as he leaned in close, murmuring: “You play it so cool with your jokes . . . but one day, you’ll fall in love so hard, you won’t play it cool.” I’ve never laughed so much in someone’s face in my LIFE. Definitely worth a wormhole to do that again.
Reason to Revisit #4: The Photos
You kids and your Snapchat. To take a selfie in 2003, you set the timer on your camera, balanced it on a nearby bin, then stood still in front of a landmark and hoped for the best. All my pictures of this fun summer are blurry, unflattering, and don’t manage to include the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State or much of anything except, like, wall. I’m going back with my iPhone – and much better hair.
Reason to Revisit #5: The Best Dress Ever
I won’t go into all the gory details, but there was a bar, a boy, some beer, and a kiss that turned into a trip that turned into human dominoes and ended with me smacking my head open on the pavement. Blood EVERYWHERE. Thank heavens for travel insurance, but no dry cleaner could save my dress – my beloved, H&M, red-and-white polka dot, faux-silk strappy dress – from the stains.
Reason to Revisit #6: The Gleeful Tourism
Maybe it’s the post-SATC malaise, with everyone queuing for a Magnolia cupcake, but I feel like I’m not allowed to be a tourist anymore. These days, your NYC holiday Instagram has to be insatiably cool, all downtown bars and little neighborhood eateries. You know what I did that summer? Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity! Pastrami on rye at Katz’s Deli! (Sometimes I broke the hot dog budget, okay.) The Empire State Building! Mostly a long queue to get up and a longer one to get down! Tiffany’s! Ghostbusters fire station! The Staten Island Ferry! Yankee Stadium! A more innocent time.
Reason to Revisit #7: Elvis Presley
Do you know where is hotter, sweatier, and more unflattering to a girl than New York City in August? TENNESSEE. Do you know where is more awesome than Tennessee during Elvis Week? NOWHERE. It took me two overnight trains, half my budget, running away from a strange encounter with a man who offered me $2 million to kiss him, but I got to Graceland. And it got me all shook up.
Reason to Revisit #8: The Blackout
I was in Memphis for the New York blackout – in another ER, because my head wound had decided to have an allergic reaction to the combination of heat and Band-Aids – and honestly, I was so annoyed. I’m sure it was a pain in the neck if you lived there, but I was on holiday. I would definitely revisit that summer on a different schedule just to experience a New York blackout. And because I would know about it in advance, because I’m a time traveller, I would have the best snacks.
Reason to Revisit #9: Coney Island
I danced on the boardwalk, ate a hot dog, ate an ice cream, and went on the rollercoaster twice. In retrospect, I would do these activities in a different order.
Reason to Revisit #10: Actually…
My friend Eliza enjoys the phrase “best summer ever!” and applies it liberally every year, like a condiment. Each new summer is the best one, because it’s the one you’re in. And ultimately, for all the Elvis adventures and forehead Band-Aid selfies and the delicious street cart hot dog diet, I don’t think I’ll revisit that summer after all. I’d just come back to New York as I am now, and do it all again.
The Square Root of Summer is available now.