That Summer by Alexandria Chu

It was that summer when boy-bands were popular again, except this time they were from overseas. Australia or England or something, I could never work out where exactly. All I knew was I had heard all their lines before. She had heard them, too.
“I am wasted.” She said as she sat up. I looked up from my phone and looked at her.
Her inflection on the am as opposed to the main adjective made me realize she didn’t mean the inebriation sort of definition. It could have meant the latter, but only if Viv hadn’t been the one to say it. Viv didn’t get wasted even if we were sitting Indian-style on her shag carpet with fruity beers consumed and in hand, tipsy yes, wasted, no.

Still, it was hard to understand what she meant. This sort of dismal reflection had never been her attitude. I’d never heard her intone even an ounce of desperation.
“No, you’re not. Don’t be silly.” I said, and I meant it. It seemed to silence her.
Viv was the only friend I ever had for this long, though even after all the years we still kept one another on edge. We had gone on trips together, had slept in the same bed, but were each ever a mystery to each other. Our personalities were only alike in loyalty, humor, and compassion. Everything else about one of us stumped the other half of us, though maybe that’s just the way we worked. Girls had to forever face the cruel construct of supposedly being at odds. So, Viv and I fought against it. We evaporated the system of jealousy through being enamored.

Viv shrugged, and lay back down on the carpet, and started humming along to her classic rock tracks that our stereo was blasting out. She had glorious curly blonde hair, shockingly big, beautiful, brown eyes, and a large natural nose – rare in Los Angeles – I had all the opposite, except my nose was real, too.
“My life has been, is, and always will be, a waste.” She began again. “I’m assured of that certain fact.”
I was still surprised by her sudden change in attitude. “How so?”
She grew serious then; It was one of those rare moments that nobody could set their watch on. She leaned towards me. “I’ve been too busy collecting things that aren’t good for a resume.”
“Like, what? Like, tonight?”
“Yeah, exactly.”
I nodded, trying to understand, before I raised my bottle towards hers. “Then, to your last night.”
She toasted me back, clinking the glass, “And, to your first.”
Viv smiled, nodded, and patted the carpet, affirmatively. She got to her feet gracefully and hung her long, tan arms in my face, swaying back and forth.
“Let’s celebrate.” She said.
“All right, let’s rock ‘n roll.”

We gathered our straps of purses and sandals, pulling them on as we scattered out the door. The night was warm, and the dark was fantastical. Anything could happen beyond the edges of what we could see. Anything had the magnitude to build us or destroy us, to change our lives. Or, at least, wasn’t that what everyone told us? So, we giddily walked onwards, her skin glowing bronze in the yellow streetlights, while mine reflected a fluorescent pale of china porcelain.
The house was an old style Spanish pueblo, booming with music and bodies. I had found it, like usual, even though it was really Viv’s party, and I was her plus one.
Before we entered, I fixed her hair, she fixed my lipstick, and we whispered our code word: “banana.” Then, we held hands and opened the door, believing that any thing and any one could be ours that night.
~~

It was that summer when our childhood idols were aging. We never thought it could happen. But, it reflected everything as of late. That is, I found that when the innocence was finally appreciated, it was never to be possessed again.
Viv and I stood in the living room, dancing while we greeted and were introduced to the other party guests. We laughed loudly, told jokes, and flitted back to one another every so often. About a half hour in, Viv’s ex made an appearance, and she sang, “I’d love some banana pancakes,” before I hurriedly pulled her into the kitchen.
She hoisted herself onto the counter, and I leaned on the table in front of her. We watched the faces streaming by, all either extremely excited or completely bored, never in between, and then I turned to her.
“What you were saying before.” I swallowed. “What do you to collect, then?”
She held her wrist to her face at an odd angle, as if she was ready for a cigarette. But, I knew Viv hated to smoke. I knew she just always held her body stiffly whenever she was thinking.
“I just think there must be more to youth than a string of parties, boyfriends, and the chase for excitement.” She blinked her heavy lids. “What we’re all looking for, anyway, isn’t going to be found here. You’ve always known that a little too much if you ask me.” She winked.
I took a seat next to her. “I think half of the people here do this because they’ve been told we’re supposed to. They can’t even enjoy it.”
“And the other half?”
“They’re the people doing the supposing.”
She grinned and cocked her head to a side. “Then, what are you and me?”
I pointed to her, “Supposing.” And then to me, “Supposed.”
She smiled and said, “We should get that backwards.”
~~

It was that summer when we realized we were so much older than a lot of other people. We had always seen ourselves on a continuum, moving away from what we didn’t want to be and onto our desired adolescence. But now, eighteen seemed so far, and we weren’t even teenagers anymore. There were no birth dates to look forward to, no restrictions lifted. It seemed all that was left was a career, marriage, and kids.
Fifteen minutes later, Viv and I ventured out of the kitchen and into the backyard. Her ex was lost in the crowd. I wanted to get another drink but Viv was set for the night; She just wanted to look at the stars.
I lost her in the commotion for a beer, for a bottle opener, and then for a Cleopatra-lounge-like lawn chair in the warm dark of the night. I wasn’t worried because we always found one another again.
“Whatchu doing there? Sitting like a farmer per ushe?”
I hugged one knee closer to my chest and looked up. Blinded by the lights momentarily, Viv finally came into focus, a huge smile on her face.
She sat down next to me, “You’ll never guess who I just saw.”
“The Boogeyman?” I matched her grin.
She giggled, but just as quickly, her emotions changed. She shook her head, rolled her shoulders, and tapped her collarbone with two fingers; another nervous habits of hers.
I knew she was worried about me, but while laughing, I grabbed her hand. “God, just spit it out already. I bite, but it doesn’t hurt too much.”
She looked into my eyes, “Rex.”
“My ex, Rex?”
“It rhymes. How perfect.” Viv leaned backwards. I could see now she was tense and avoiding my reaction. “He wants you to go over and talk to him. He wasn’t surprised we were here together but not together. He says us two are never in the same place at the same time.” She sat up. “I know you wouldn’t usually, but now, maybe you should.” She tapped her bones again.
I shrugged, “Nah. I honestly have no intention of conversing with him whatsoever.”
Viv shrugged gently.
“You know I would, well, I would have before…”
“Well, I still won’t, even if I’ve grown lax. You taught me that.”
She smiled again, and her eyes curled at the edges.
I voiced it then. “I’ve got an image in my head. Stuck, you know. It’s of me driving an El Camino convertible down Mulholland. You’re in the passenger seat, per usual, and we’re singing to John Mellencamp, Tom Petty, and the Eagles; all those bands I’ve only ever thought sounded the same. The mountains are our irreplaceable Californian kind. They stretch out three hundred and sixty degrees. They capture the sunshine and throw it back at you in the most flattering light. The sky is an awing blue and white.”
She turned to gaze at me.
“You’re wearing your signature white t-shirt, your classic jean shorts, your grass stained converse tennis shoes. And, I look at you and say, ‘They say you should hold onto being sixteen for as long as possible. Don’t you wish we did?’”
“And then you look at me and say, ‘Honey, I already did that. You’re the one that didn’t.’”
~~

It was that summer when I learned to hold onto my youth and she learned to hold onto her future. It was perfect, in this way. For we had enough experience to teach each other the pitfalls of these paths. And, in moderation, we kept our pulse on both.
So, Rex was wrong. We were together for once. We were together for always.
We left the party two hours in, and Viv promised we’d drive down Mulholland tomorrow. We wouldn’t have an El Camino, but we would roll down the windows. And, I said I’d let her drive, instead, and she said she’d let me hug my knee, lean back, and enjoy the ride.

That Summer by Alexandria Chu

RTBBfiction

Joined August 2012

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