Untitled – 2012
April 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
Written a while ago, it came to mind again after hearing this beautiful cover of La Vie En Rose, which coincidentally serves as beautiful accompaniment.
Eyes glinting in the golden shafts of 3‘o’clock sunlight, sparkling with a hint of teasing wit; hair flying behind her like a cape of fluid mahogany, whipping across her cheeks as she whirled with breathless glee; this was how I remembered her.
I knew her from the house across from where my family would summer, and as the parents chatted about “how things were”, the children would be released into the capacity of freedom, and as our feet moved and our hearts started pounding, we knew that the holiday had started.
The first summer I met her, she was barely 15, dewy complexion and lithe figure, beckoning us to “run faster, faster!” as she tore through the field on the way to our swimming hole with absolute fractiousness.
One night, as I was passing by her house, I could just about see two figures swathed in the shadows of her porch. Hesitant to look for long, I quickly averted my eyes and concentrated on the fascinating crunch of gravel beneath my feet. Footsteps, however, barely masked the cacophony of giggling and heavy breathing that was gradually fading into the darkness.
The next summer, her hair was short. Beaming, she explained her new “punk look” as I nodded and smiled back. Playing chinese whispers with the younger ones, I smelled hints of smoke and brandy on her breath, but held my tongue. Perhaps I should have noticed her hems inching upwards, or the slow descent of her neckline, but in the moment, all that mattered was her presence.
Walking back to my room, I noticed her parents in our living room, eyes wide and fingers clutching glasses of champagne, animatedly describing something to mine. Later, I heard my mother come into my room, but only to stand in my doorway and sigh.
The following summer, everything had changed. Going swimming was “Whatever”, playing with the kids was a “Hell no” and her once engaging blue eyes seemed like glaciers of indifference. Peering at everyone from behind purple bags under her eyes, snarling when touched, this was not the same girl I’d met so long ago.
I asked her, once, when she’d want to die. Turning to me, her angular cheekbones formed a beveled v-shape to her thin red lips. “I want to die,” she said slowly, “when I am still beautiful enough for them to grieve.” To me, it seemed like this was past, but perhaps there was beauty in her youth, or some vestiges in her cliched decline into an adolescent stereotype.
The next morning, as I walked past our old haunt by the swimming hole, I wasn’t surprised to see her lifeless body hanging from a tree. I stood and stared as the wind swayed her torso and whistled through her hair, almost as if prompting her to get down and laugh.
Through the howls of her parents and the tears of both families, I realized that I only remembered her in all her childish glory, and that nothing that happened in the wake of consequent summers would change that. Cigarette smoke could only stay for so long, but she truly was a thing of beauty, and a thing of beauty is a joy forever.