Instructions For Summer
In those first days when the sidewalks are drenched with Vitamin D, conclude that the air is more concentrated with oxygen. Be sure of it, be sure of everything. Let your lungs fill. Lose track of time. Glow. Feel your finger securely on the pulse of the city and believe that this summer will not be forgettable – but don’t dare it, not yet. The waning season’s baby teeth are toggling, threatening to surrender at any moment, and with them will fall all of your worries and woes of winter. In the gaps, summer will root.
Hear, see, read everywhere that it’s poor form to decline invitations. Never do. Meet people, the protagonists of your now, all of whom you’re certain will inspire and encourage and drive you. Evolve together with fictional idealizations of yourselves. Let the narcissism rise like mercury. Keep their secrets. Write them down, save them for later. In return share your mind, share your self, share your body.
Regale in your rampant optimism with a fingers-in-my-ears-I-can’t-hear-you attitude toward consequence and accountability. As the hours tick toward the start of your workday, have conversations made up of equally poured parts of unforgettable meaning and insignificance.
Feel electric, satiated. Stop writing, reading. Never be alone. Never need to. Energize your body with the stimulation, dilated pupils, quickened heartbeats constantly in your midst. Throw around your interest tenuously, accept the same treatment from others. Stop setting boundaries.
Miss certain days before they even end. Consistently counter that verdict etched across countless bathroom walls “nothing good happens after 2 a.m.” Instead waltz across hardwood floors as the sun comes up, the scotch in your glass sloshing, spitting teasingly in your face as you crane your neck to meet its lip over the shoulder of a man who tells you that you’re beautiful. A man who won’t miss you when you’re gone. Either realize this all at once or know it all along. Assure yourself it’s okay. Assure yourself of a lot of things. Laugh as you fall to the floor together and don’t get up until the sun’s set again.
Watch this same sun come back up over the river on a roof with a gay man you’ve just recently met. Tell him everything. Don’t recover from this for a few days.
Still expect more from every night. Push the limits. Be rewarded for your monogamy to this lifestyle, to this city. Forget to eat. Forget to sleep. Carry on your affairs until they each become apathetic, one at a time. Then still don’t stop.
Face unmerited 4 a.m. rage. Stand stunned as the backs of your backup sit hunched over the bar, not noticing. Bear the beating of this trusted confidant out of lack of alternatives but black out the context. Just blindly agree to whatever accusations surface. Know it’s easier. Be betrayed. Consider going home, check your phone, get distracted. Continue the night without many words and nod awake in the back of a cab with a no-longer-angry head rested in your lap. Watch it smile and marvel at the sun peeking over the Brooklyn Bridge, saying something about how this city never loses its magic, yada-yada-yada. Recognize the back in the passenger seat, still facing you, shoulders rising and falling as he banters with the cabbie. Look at the bridge. Don’t commiserate.
Don’t bother fishing for an apology. Take a few weeks to acknowledge that things are changing. Play along, still.
Look at your reflection in the elevator ceiling, its mirror revealing angles you manage to mask in the 2-D world. Notice your collarbone, your cheeks, your vanity. That those aren’t designer bags under your eyes. Embrace your exhaustion and feel genuinely unscripted. Notice how alone you are, if just momentarily. Wonder if you should panic. Consider shedding a tear for good measure. Return to work instead.
Almost get mugged. Question if you’re perhaps not invincible after all.
Change your sheets. Go grocery shopping. Cut your cuticles. Consider a detox cleanse.
Learn that rose petals are really difficult to vacuum up once they’ve been smashed on the carpet.
Leave the country. Consider telling no one but fear the repercussions for that betrayal. Find a thesaurus, use it to describe exactly what you’re feeling. Decide on “annexed,” but award “naïve” an honorable mention. Read a book about it all and relate.
Sift through articles and old essays, sure that you left your inspiration around there somewhere. Reluctantly wonder instead if you have already given too much away, that it’s too late to reclaim the bits and pieces of yourself strewn about bars, bedrooms and boroughs. Start to say “no” more often. Relapse frequently. Recognize scenes of your everyday life as if they are each cleanly cut, edited clips of movies that you used to adore, but now not so much. Vibrate with anxiety. Gallivant anyway. Worry that you might go crazy at any moment, just from the company you keep. Secondhand psychosis. But within this trepidation, discover an ally. Feel understood, reciprocate the solidarity. Don’t worry so damn much.
Slowly recapture the beauty of being alone, stop whoring out your time and watch the color return to your complexion. Finish a book. Finish a few.
Consider leaving the city again, but get distracted. Notice how tired everyone else seems too. Laugh less, but genuinely. Empty your body of what made it stir. Feel frustrated briefly, but welcome the change. Instantly forget the names of people you meet. Feel okay anyway. Detach.
Get an e-mail reminder for some juice cleanse you bought a few weeks ago. Never redeem it. Buy a fall jacket instead.
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It started with a right swipe, a little green heart. Tinder of course.
Though I acknowledge and appreciate the differences in human experiences, and while your heartbreak is (and always will be) uniquely and completely your own, I must urge you to consider that I have been where you are.
With his hat cocked back, body tilted away from his cane, and right forefinger pointing directly at his audience, Joseph Ducreux commands the attention of those viewing his self-portrait.
I was born in 1990; he was born in 1973. I’m 23; he just turned 40.