The sun was strong as they welcomed me into the yard. Familiar faces said hello. People who I knew from high school but didn’t really know. I was identified as “his girlfriend.” What they didn’t know was that he was being distant, but I smiled anyway because the sun was out and the sky was blue and miniature cherries were on my shirt. I really liked cherries. Towels lined the prickly grass. We acquired our first sunburns of the season and chatter filled the hot, thick air. College majors. Summer jobs. Plans for the upcoming weeks were in the works, and I decided that I would be a part of it. I would belong.
We were no longer together come autumn, but they still encouraged me to go the Halloween Party. I somehow managed to talk to people and wear a blonde wig for a photo and watch a dance-off in the basement and put cake in my mouth without crying. The crying came in the privacy of my bedroom when I got home. Winter break was spent in that basement. Talking till 4 in the morning. Ordering Chinese takeout. Playing consecutive games of Uno. Nobody wanted to say good night, because saying good night meant that we had to go back to where we came from. We were all seeking comfort, seeking companionship, seeking an antidote to loneliness.
It was the day after their New Year’s Eve bash that set the momentum for the months ahead. Symbolic for a new year. Emotional warmth to counter the upcoming days of heavy coats and muscles contracting from the cold. I can recall lots of movies and lots of plaid pajama pants. I remember delirium and laughter at midnight. For someone who doesn’t bask in too much structure, we had a routine. For a little while, at least. Maybe I craved stability in my relationships. Maybe I craved unity. Some nights, “Archer” would be on the television screen — not my personal taste, but I gave it chance; I gave it all a chance because it’s what I needed.
I was hungry for connection, even though they couldn’t save me. Still, they filled the empty spaces with pockets of fuel. Oxygen. With music and karaoke. Summer nights encumbered in innocence. There was chlorine and treading water. Staying afloat. We helped each other. And I’ll never forget that.
I tend to romanticize beginnings. Beginnings are magic. They’re comprised of sentimentality and purpose and perfect timing. But some life chapters are supposed to be transient. As days press onward, I may realize that those forged connections aren’t exactly what I conceived them to be; perceptions shift; dynamics change. And that’s okay. Those beginnings were still real. They still taught me something. They still served as a stepping stone. A bridge to the next phase. Unearthing layers, shedding the dust, revealing my most authentic self.