Short nonfiction piece, triggered by my nostalgia for childhood summertime. It was inspired by this post, which I heartily recommend. In fact, I recommend the whole On the Borderland blog, it is a fabulous read.
I remember summer. The slow breeze of the hillside, the warm rain, the soothing perfume of linden flowers and playing messily in short-lived mud puddles. I remember the faint ache of cuts and bruises which I barely even noticed – they were always unreal emanations from another me, in another universe. I was not my skin. I was the imaginary wild horses which I rode in my mind, and the ships sailing on waters I had never seen, and I was the laughter and the lightheartedness, and the sheer amazement. I remember the immense poplar I wished I could climb, the rhythmic creaking of the metal swings, their chipped green paint, and the nursery song I used to hear in the collared dove’s call – Streptopelia decaocto, most common in the Balkans, it seems. I remember the sensual tickle of snails on my arm, snails I used to pick up after rain, snails I loved to hold, snails which I could look at for hours. I remember I used to wish summer would last forever. The heat was never scorching, the air was never too humid. I remember the exquisitely lazy afternoons when I would hide in a corner and read. I always picked thick books, and it never took me more than a week to finish reading them. I remember wearing mostly hand-me-downs, colourful shorts and tees, and plastic flip-flops. The hand-me-downs would always hang loosely on me, partly because I’ve always been skinny, but partly because they were boys’ clothes. I remember being cruel to flies when I caught them – I always caught them alive and never killed them straight away; I enjoyed plucking their wings and then making them swim in rainwater puddles. I remember leaving bread crumbles for the ants; I loved to watch them carrying loads ten times bigger than them, but most of all I loved watching them seeking out their dead and carrying them away – where to? Did they bury them somewhere? Did they have a sense of loss and propriety?
I remember wanting to live an adventure, but never daring to venture more than a dozen yards away from the playground. I liked to draw my own board games and invent ridiculous words. I liked to tell ghost stories to my friends late in the evening, just after sunset, but I was scared of going back home on my own, scared of the lightless staircase and the hoarse howl of a diseased stray dog in the distance. But later, from the safety of our open balcony, with the comfort of the chandelier light shining steadily from the living-room, and the soft hum of familiar voices chatting about nonsense, I loved to watch out for bats, plunging swiftly after prey, screeching occasionally, fuzzy spots of blackness in the translucent darkness of the summer night. I was not scared or disgusted of bats corpses. But I was afraid to distraction of spiders, of their variety, and their intelligent schemes to capture and kill other insects with more physical mobility. Some things I learned in summer and then steadily forgot over the other seasons: fencing with long sharp sticks, jumping like squirrels, running in the rain. At the beginning of summer, I enjoyed going for solitary walks around the block, hoping to find stray cats I could play with. At the end of summer, I loved to organise tedious and lachrymose festivals with my friends in the garden pervaded by the sugary scent of slowly wilting red roses. My earliest memory of summer is being left by myself in the deserted playground and not knowing what to do with all that freedom. The last I remember of summer is wanting to leave and never once look behind.