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Summer Romance and its Aftermath
You smile as you kiss each other one last time before he gets off at fourteenth street, possibly never to be seen again. You try to memorize each other’s faces “for one last look” and then the train stops and he pulls away. When he leaves there’s a gaping hole on your left side where he sat that you never knew was there until he left it empty. It scares you because all at once you are aware of how utterly alone you are, that you face everything on your own. Tears well up and now you’re just another basket case on the subway until your own stop comes and you are forced to get up and move forward.
Steps never felt so heavy before two weeks ago when you met at a shady concert with gin and lemonade and weed. He was older and nice enough and you were bored. You hookup wildly for the rest of the night, traveling the city together like in one of those cheesy feature films. Ha, it’s funny to think now there were those two days when you thought he would never call, that it would be an isolated, exhilarating evening. But then your phone rings.
That first sober meeting was weird topped off with a chaperon to "lighten the mood." Despite how awkward this re-acquainting session is, he decides to pursue it even further and you see each other again, only now you’re alone and you grow into your own skin. That’s when the fun begins.
Steamy hookups at hot empty houses, going to movies and taking long walks. He introduces you to his friends and for once you’re not shy because you know he’s on your side. There’s lots of holding and PDA and it’s as though you’ve skipped all the build-up into a full blown relationship because there’s no time. In just a few weeks he’s got to go back to school.
That last night is magical, another concert only now you’re with him and all his friends and everything’s wonderful. You don’t leave his side all night because you need to get what you can before he's gone. At one you abandon the party in favor of a final walk together. You’re on the subway before you know it, and what has been your world for the most recent of pasts is closed forever, sealed of with a big fat red stamp.
Only it’s not, pieces still seep through, and when they do you cannot help but grasp at them with the nostalgia of a romanticized contentment. You get on with your life, but as you do you come across his friends and friends of friends until at last they really are your friends too. At first you are just that girl he used to date, but eventually the past is forgotten in the constant high and you are only your present, separate self. You get invited to house parties and bring your own friends too. You drink and be merry and form bonds with people who don’t even know how you became part of their world. Still you can never forget he was the original link, the bridge that burned once you had crossed.
Months have passed as you have made your own place in what was originally his world, and now he’s about to return. You are panicked, no clear path cut out. You are in the present but cannot forget that balmy past, there is no way of knowing how the two will collide, and the looming question of whether things might resume, or is that not even possible? There are the obvious objections: he has been absent for months, you barely knew each other, things will fall apart or be forced to end yet again with the summer. But the argument for it is so much simpler, so appealing: it was, and was wonderful.
At last it’s imminent, the collision. Shorts are opted for over jeans and bikini diets are well underway. You go to a birthday party and, casual though it is, you get a little dressed up and ready for anything. And then you are there and he is there, and
nothing. That’s it, two people at a party who met a few times last summer. Nothing. You talk to your friends, he sticks with the ones who came back from school too, nothing. A general wave goodbye as he leaves (early and alone), aimed at no one in particular, nothing.
You are confused, how can this be? Was it imagined, and if so, what? The present or the past? Are you truly strangers now, and have you always been? The simple answer is yes, yes to all of that. You do not know this man, older and farther from you than his former self, who was even then so distant. Yes, you laughed and hugged and kissed and more, but did you ever tell your deepest secrets? Did you ever argue over the biggest problems of the French Revolution, or whether modern art should even be considered art? No, no, no. You were fun and play and glossy entertainment, like a mini series on TV. No time to get attached or grasp anything deeper than the first veneer, and even that you left behind on the number two train. He is the one piece of that summer that will remain permanently sealed off and placed on the top shelf in the locked closet. All that’s left is the present, and you have to see him for what he is, not what he was, and you for what you want to be.