Summer, the older sister


serenaSummer was my friend’s big sister.  I had a crush on her growing up.  We all did. She had a way of finding your most protected infirmity and calling you on it, usually in public.  We reveled in the humiliation she dished.  We’d all sit there in my buddy’s room, listening to her as she talked on the phone with one of her many gentleman callers, wondering if we’d ever grow up to be so lucky.  Our eyes lit up, our chests heaved, our palms would sweat and our mouths would go dry when she moved from room to room.

My friend’s sister being hot wasn’t anything we ever gave him shit for—as many young boys would do—because her attraction was too much.  It inspired awe, reverence, a sense of immensity.  She was noble, exalted, a freak/gift of nature.  She was too good for our world, and she had no problem making that abundantly clear as she made fun of us in front of her friends.  But we didn’t care; it was enough just to watch and hear her speak.

I was only 14 the when she came home from her senior prom.  I got up in the middle of the night for water and saw her sitting on the couch in her prom dress, crying. “That son of a bitch,” she sniffled.  I didn’t know how to respond.  I just sat down next to her on the couch as she cried.  I listened to her talk about it for a while and she put her hand in mine.  I told her I was sorry.  She said she was too, for everything.  I never told anyone it happened even though it was one of the more important moments of my young life.

Years later, I ran into Summer at a bar when I was home for Christmas.  She was hammered.  She leaped up and wrapped her legs around me, saying, “Well, well, well—look at you, all grown up.”  Her eyes swam about her face.  She was still perhaps the prettiest girl I have ever seen, but something was amiss.

The next morning, waking up in her apartment, I felt a sense of doom.  How does someone like Summer ever become just that girl at the bar? I wondered.  I preferred her in that ivory tower we reserve for the things we don’t understand.  Staring out her window at the concrete and steel buildings downtown, I realized the impermanence and vanity of everything.  I left before she woke up, leaving only a note saying that I’d think of her every time I stared into the bottom of an empty bottle. And as another bottle goes empty, I can’t help but think of how the future keeps shrinking as our past grows.

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