Every so often, when I least expect it, I'll be working or playing or dreaming or walking, and it hits me in the back of the knees and almost brings me to the floor. And I miss that past so much I could hardly breathe, and it seems so INCONCEIVABLE, almost RIDICULOUS, that I’ll never live that life again. The boys wholeheartedly-important and the ugly Aeropostale T-shirts and tight jeans and the cafeteria food, the rush and the line, cutting in line and cutting my skin, I just can’t believe it’s over. Eucalyptus trees and dramatic crushes, arrival day, that excitement, and dorm cleanup and wanting OUT to see the boys and to run across the rugby field in rain and starlight.
The smell of fire. Killer hill. Birds so loud in the trees there’s not a moment of silence, and colobus monkeys. Caring community. Pikis. Ah, I want back all of a sudden. I want back.
And wanting to be in love so badly that I thought my heart would break. Those romantic images I’ve sensibly replaced with the hope that maybe someday I’ll find a friend close enough that we can unite our stories. I don’t dream of roses anymore, or stars, or (help me FORGIVE ME) I don’t dream of African soil.
Picking roses. Thorns tearing the palms of my hands. Picking all the old-fashioned and tropical flowers out in the garden to leave at the grave.
Studie. Or more precisely, studie bridge, where we sat for hours on warm dusty concrete. Talking to people you’ve been with for years is different. It’s so much newer than you’d think it could be. Those conversations, they went deeper than any I’ve had before or since. We told each other everything. Those half-sacred conversations, and our explorations searching for something new. Roofward we went, of course. The sky was the only hope of something untouched, untameable. We climbed the siren tower and our legs hung loose in the winds and the singing from AIC. We lay on our backs on the sun-baked sloped tiles of the cafeteria roof. We found a make-out spot behind the pond, with an oddly placed clock, and climbed on cylindrical logs to break into the mattress room, where I began to wheeze at once as dust rose to shape the light.
We were fire-new to feeling, then. And there was feeling, and hormones, and emotion all bottled up. Since our parents weren’t there, we raised one another, little wolves all teeth, and were all unadulterated, we were so black-and-white. Things were right or they were wrong and WE KNEW the difference, even if no one else did. Like animals, they put bars all around us, and we battled and fought the metaphorical ones and surrendered to the physical ones. We were just kids, after all. We weren’t that strong. And they told us we were bad, and we believed it. We were slutty, because we longed for someone to want us. We were female, and they said boys clouded our minds. We were weak and made weaker. They told us our purity was the only gift we had of value.
Hang on. I mustn’t get too dramatic. We’re not in those days anymore. They loved us as well. They wanted the best for us. They knew they’d caged us right next to each other, boys right girls left. I suppose they were scared all our feelings would combust. Mine did. They didn’t shatter cage bars, though. Those red-hot feelings just shattered me. And I was badly burned. I carry the scars to this day.
Physical scars are not that big a deal, though I have them too, ugly white-purple markings. But what’s worse are the scars of starlight and the stripe of milky way in the far north of Kenya, fine lines across my heart. The scar of DESIRING EVERYTHING and receiving so much but not – not-what-I-wanted is a stab wound with still-ragged edges. I tried to be stronger than the people who told me I had to fall into this mould to deserve love, and I AM, I AM STRONGER. But I still haven’t found what they have. Yes, I’m not strong enough to disdain a man’s arms and his strength. That’s true, too.
I lie here in marshmallow winter duvets like a snail out of shell, naked in the nightdark, easy to kill. And I don’t know why I suddenly miss this place, this school among volcanoes and hot springs and the valley, the great scooped out savannah. It’s good, though. I mustn’t forget how I cherished it. I mustn’t deny that it’s forever lost to me.
Tyre swings and ankle-turning stones, starry nights and ten pm curfews. Senior store and banquet and Sadie Hawkins and interim. They’re over.
Of course, we move on. But there's no forgetting our youth, is there? I miss them. I miss them. I’ll miss them always, let’s face it. Nothing is the same. I’m not the same, and neither are those girls who were my dearest friends. We have all lost it. That innocence. We have all grown old.