When I was in college I liked to write narrative poems. Before the Internet and blogs were invented narrative poems were the perfect outlet for people like me who lack the attention span necessary to write a short story and the attention to detail necessary to write a regular poem.
I think it was my junior year of college when I wrote a narrative poem about summer. It was all about the plans you make at the beginning of the summer, the trips you’ll take, the discussions you’ll have, the parties you’ll throw, and then suddenly, it’s August and time for the State Fair and you realize that summer is over.
Obviously, it was longer than that – and hopefully more poetic.
I think you would have to lose all sense of childhood and joy not to mourn the end of summer at least a little, but I remember that year there was an added sense of drama and sadness. A friend of mine, a boy I loved, was going away at the end of the summer. He and two friends were moving to the Virgin Islands (I think, but maybe it was some place else, it was some place exotic).
He was not my boyfriend, this boy I loved. He was in fact the boyfriend of one of my best friends. I loved them both and they loved me and we were all much too sophisticated and mature to think of it as anything like a love triangle.
I was barely 20 at the time and I had spent most of my teen years walking carefully on a line between trying to fit in and trying to stand out. But there was something about my friends, about the way they were together but open, a couple but without the normal rules. There was something about all this openness and freedom, and their beauty that made me feel like I could be free, too. It made me feel like I did not have to decide between all the parts of me, that I could just be me.
It was understood by everyone that the boy would come back in a year or two, and some day my friends would get married and make beautiful babies.
But I did not really believe it. Somewhere in my attic I have a photo booth strip from the State Fair that year. The three of us are smiling and goofing around but I feel like I knew that at the end of that summer, when the boy went away, everything would change.
I don’t remember the details. I know that soon after he left, the girl began seriously dating someone else. Of course, they had both agreed that dating while he was gone was fine, because, you know, they were sophisticated. Seeing her start a serious relationship so soon after the boy left showed me something in us that I hadn’t known before. For years, I think I blamed it on her. But now I know, I finally saw that we were not sophisticated and free, we were young and afraid and none of us wanted to be alone. I don’t know if was that discovery or just that I didn’t know the new boy very well, but my friend and I began to spend less time together.
The boy came back sooner than planned. The adventure hadn’t been as expected, I remember something about a robbery, and maybe some drugs. It seems to me that suddenly he was home and then he was dating a girl who had been on the outskirts of our social circle for a while. I was not fond of her, but because he was, I decided to like her. Eventually, I had to admit that she was good for him in ways that my friend had not been. Eventually, all three of us married and made beautiful babies with other people. There has been divorce and death and all the things that happen as you get older.
Every August, when people start to talk about State Fairs and going back to school I think of that summer. Every August I feel a little sad, because I know, when summer ends, everything changes.