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Summer Nights, July 2019

It’s late in the day, and people are seated, inexplicably, around a fire. The sun’s still providing plenty of heat, shining down on busy, bustling Wharf Street SW. Families and tourists and couples sweat as they make their way by swanky restaurants and hotels. Children play in the fountain at the strip’s southern end. The fire is ostensibly here for roasting s’mores, but no one seated around it is toasting marshmallows. Instead they sit and stare and bake, occasionally checking their phones.

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Day turns to night. People have filled their bellies with food and shots of Patrón—“the cheapest kind you have.” They stroll along the water, striding out on the piers for better views. Now that the sun has set and the heat has dulled, the crowd around the fire is bigger. People begin toasting jumbo marshmallows for a DIY dessert. The style of choice tonight seems to be burnt. When several marshmallows burst into flames their owners continue to toast them, unperturbed. 

A group of men well past their childhood campfire days call to “make some space” as they walk toward the fire from the Airstream-style trailer that sells s’mores kits at $3 a pop. They carefully load up their skewers and set to toasting as one sings the summer anthem ”Old Town Road.” 

“That’s trouble, that’s trouble,” one says as yet another marshmallow catches fire. Soon, flames surround the singer’s skewer, too. He turns it upside down so that the blaze climbs, consuming his marshmallow entirely. When it’s burnt to his liking, he assembles his sandwich, throws the skewer into the fire, and takes a victorious bite, the goop sticking to his stubble.

Will Warren writes Scene and Heard. If you know of a location worthy of being seen or heard, email him at wwarren@washingtoncitypaper.com.

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