There was something beautiful and deluding about the end of July. Billy and I were listening to Jolene by Dolly Parton in his car, driving over the speed limit, the air-conditioner on. It was hot, unbearably hot. The heat wave felt like a clingy ex-partner that we wanted to get rid of but from whom we somehow enjoyed the embrace, an embrace saving us from thinking well or just thinking straight. Billy was in the driver’s seat even though he had drunk about six or seven cocktails this afternoon. He looked sober but his voice was drawl. We both wondered who this terrible Jolene could have been, and Billy said that maybe Dolly was infatuated with that Jolene herself. Yes, there was something unique about the end of July. A timeless month during which we just kept rambling about a shapeless future while trying to bring back to life the memories of a clear and emotionally heavy past. A past that was not much older than a month or two for me. There was a searing lightness about it, a soft anger that I perfectly wore like alluring ribbons around my body daily wrapped in one-pieces swimsuits.
‘So where are you from, now?’ Billy had jested, this morning.
‘Everywhere, everywhere,’ I had replied with a sad, dreamy-like smile. I was now speaking two languages, bearing two countries in my heart, and wondering which place I should call home. But when I was staring at Billy’s tanned face and dark eyes, it deeply seemed to be the closest thing from home.
Every evening, we had great plans and ambitions that were alluringly unfolding on Billy’s clear swimming pool. I romanticized the idea of us, tanned bodies and wet hair smelling like chlorine and sun, deluded graduate students playing children games in the water and getting dizzy with weed and alcohol under 40 degrees Celsius. Despite how pleasing this may have sound, the only thing I could have compared us with for now were these miserable out of tune music boxes.
Later, when we arrived at Billy’s place – luckily alive – his friends and family greeted us with screams and music. Billy threw around repetitive thank you to different faces, dancing awkwardly in this cheering crowd singing overloud wishes of happy birthday. He had just turned twenty-two and neither he nor I had a single idea of what our lives would look like after September. It was probably the strangest summer of our life.
Around 1 am, most guests were still partying in the living room. I was sitting by the pool, swinging my legs to and fro in the turquoise and calm waters. I had just finished my book when Billy sat next to me. ‘Chocolates for Breakfast, uh? You read it in English?’
‘You mostly read in English, now.’
‘Is the end good?’ he enjoined.
I shrugged. ‘It’s an end without being one, and it’s a bit bitter-sweet.’
I lifted my eyes to the heavens. ‘You’re silly.’
We laughed despite ourselves. That’s what we always did: turning everything into poetry or some fun, some punch. So I eventually read him the end of Chocolates for Breakfast. “Never let the enchantment go out of your life”, had written Pamela Moore when she was about our age. I was barely twenty-one and Billy had just turned twenty-two, but despite our youth, we felt like we had to hold on to this. Clinging to the idea that sullenness was unacceptable.
‘To simply never, never lose the enchantment,’ repeated Billy, his eyebrows frowned, like if saying it out loud was a way of swallowing it, absorbing it in each of our cells to keep on breathing.
To never love the enchantment. Not even when angry, frustrated, unbearably young and stunning under the summer’s sun, and unable to piece ourselves back together.
Even when lost in transition.
Categories: Short Stories