a summer fling that gets better after good bye
She shuts the screen door with its peeling paint, and a smile breaks out on her face. An evening well-spent, and the best is yet to come. Sex is good, and his skin is warm. He offers to walk her home, as he does every night, but she declines, as she does every night. Sex is good, and his skin is warm, but she likes to end her nights alone. This gives her the necessary 10 minutes to remind herself that a breezy July night filled with stars that she doesn’t know the names of is more than enough to satiate her.
Her mother has always told her that the nicer the boy the warmer his body temperature will be. This summer boy is proof that mom was right. He is so nice. But nice only gets you so far. That may sound mean, but it’s honest. She wasn’t honest with him then, so she should be now. He laughs at her jokes in all the wrong places and apologizes when he shouldn’t. He doesn’t see their disconnect. Part of her knows that the deeper she gets, the more wrong she is doing. He thinks she likes his jokes, which only proves that he doesn’t know her laugh. He thinks that they have an understanding, but their conversations run in circles, beginning and ending with wispy nothings.
It gives her a certain sense of power, to know that he thinks he has her, to know that he thinks she is consumed by him, when really she is consumed by sweat and warm skin and walks home that filling her lungs with romantic notions of summer and love. What they have is not love. What they have is not even love adjacent. What they have is convenience that quickly becomes routine, but she refuses to give up those walks home. All day she is surrounded by people—happy, cheerful, silly, buzzing people—high on spending their days outdoors, and she loves it. She feels energized and alive too. But this is new for her; she normally is the kind of girl who gets overwhelmed, who often needs quiet moments to herself, to be in her own head, to daydream. She reaches the halfway point of the summer and realizes she has been in the moment every moment she has had. So she stops letting him walk her home.
But she still doesn’t return to her daydreams. Instead, she floats home on the leaves that tickle her toes in their Birkenstocks, on the night sounds that don’t quite scare her, on her ability to be detached. She didn’t know she could be like this. She doesn’t think it means she is cold-hearted or mean-spirited. His understanding of their situation certainly gives him what he wants, aligned with his own notions of what romantic summers should be like. She began in June with these same notions, with hopes of a grand summer love. What she gets is sex and warm skin, which truly isn’t half bad. In fact, it’s kind of good. You can say she was heartless, thoughtless, that she was cruel, that she drew it out for too long and snatched up someone else too quickly. But she didn’t daydream once that summer; she felt strong and in control. She felt like herself, day after day after day. Her moments alone on nighttime walks home confirmed this, that she felt totally satisfied all the time. Not because of sex with him, not even because of his warm, warm skin, but because of her days of friendship and laughter and her ability to touch every single star when no one was looking. She could do everything she wanted.
He didn’t see this girl, or if he did, he didn’t understand her. To him, she was the kind of intimacy he had never had for more than one night, but he had picked the wrong girl to extend that magic we can all feel in one moment. She gave herself to someone who didn’t see her sense of humor or her life or her love of book dedications, but she’s alll right with that; she didn’t really want him to. He gave her walks home, moments where she could be alone, unafraid, and feel free and strong and happy that she was who she was—that she was radiating all those Romantic notions of summer all on her own, placing the stars in the sky.