When We Shone

Scorching afternoons left us lethargic and stale that summer, the hottest that I have ever known. It comes back to me in waves, like the ripples of heat that drenched us in sweat even as we lay on your floor beneath the open windows, damp t shirts rolled up to expose our stomachs, legs and arms spread wide to catch the nonexistent breeze. I was fifteen, you were sixteen, and within that year lay a vast expanse of wisdom and experience that I could not even hope to imagine.

Your long fingers were lost in your dark hair, massaging your boiling scalp, sweeping the curls away from your glistening neck, and you groaned emphatically like you were trying to expel some of that wretched heat swelling inside you. I shut my eyes and tried to imagine a cool wind whistling its way through the window, rousing the curtains into life, relieving us both of this stifling tension with its refreshing chill.

“It’s too hot to think,” you complained, and I opened my eyes. Even that small act was enough energy exerted for me to feel fresh beads of sweat on my forehead.

“That shouldn’t be a problem for you,” I responded, with a laugh made lazy by the oppressive, stagnant air.

You threw a pillow at my head, but it was so pitifully lackluster that it fell two inches short of me. I grinned. You stuck your middle finger up at me. Even that crude, inelegant gesture managed to appear gracefully eloquent coming from you; you always were able to exude an aura of grace and poise that had left me in awe since the day we met.

“If you could have one thing right now what would it be?” you asked, apathy dripping from your lips.

“Ice cream,” I answered, without hesitation.

“What flavour?”


“That’s boring,” you sighed, as if disappointed in my choice.

“It’s the coldest one,” I explained, and felt, rather than saw, your raised eyebrow.

“What the-” you began to ask, but you cut yourself off, probably because you were too exhausted by the sweltering heat to bother asking, but I pretended it was because you knew what I meant.

I turned my head to look at you and your expression was unfathomable. Just for a brief second there was wonder in your gaze. It was the kind of look that made me feel suddenly exposed; it sent a jolt to my stomach and a flush to my cheeks before I could even register why.

With huge discomfort I shifted my body, sticky and slick, across the floor, until I was lying on my side next to you, propped up on my elbow.

“Hey,” I said, aware of my thighs slowly melting together.

“Ugh, no, it’s too hot to be this close!” you said, playfully pushing at my arm.

“Gross, your hands are all sweaty!” I laughed, and you laughed back, a breathless, panting, delirious giggle that seemed to suck what little air there was left from the room.

We looked at each other then, our fading laughter still etched around our mouths. Your mascara looked wet on your eyelashes and it had smeared onto your eyelids; I was both perplexed and glad that, for once, you didn’t seem to care.

“This summer’s been shit,” you said lightly, and I couldn’t help but smile.

“You won’t think that in five years time,” I told you, though I didn’t have a clue whether that was true or not. You would have shrugged if the weight of the sun’s rays hadn’t been pressing so heavily on your shoulders.

My response hardly seemed to hang in the air at all, whisked away by some invisible wind; any comment about the future, however vague, was lost on you. You were too spontaneous for that, too concerned with the present, too absolutely certain that everything but the one moment you were occupying at any given time was totally illusive. I knew my words hadn’t even brushed against your syrupy skin. And still we felt the harsh, unyielding sun beating down on us, immense and smug and merciless.

Like you, I have never tended to look to the future, but rather than remain suspended in the current moment I have clung adamantly to the past, conjuring nostalgia brushed with pink so that I might always live among my recreations of old memories. I still wonder what it was about that summer that captivated me so, why it is to those memories that I so often return when the cold wind is harsh and the rain falls in hostile sheets outside my window.

Perhaps it is simply because we were young and naive and innocent; we did not know then, as I know now, how lucky we were that in the midst of that scorching summer our skin did not blister and peel, was not rubbed red raw by the callous intangible flames of the sun. We did not know how purely beautiful it was that instead we merely shone.

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