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Summer Sunshine

A poem by Sam Aikman

The one thing I consistently rely on is the sun. Even when the skyline changes and the tide shifts and the train pulls away from the station, there is still glow and dusk. The cobbled street flickers with evening heat and the town with its honey houses sinks to golden.

It’s easy to forget that all these places, the platform and view and shoreline with its toothpaste-blue water will still exist when the plane takes off and the sun sets, and I am 1,000 miles away.

I have walked for weeks. I have grown saturated and purple with my hope. I haven’t forgotten who I thought I’d be but I’m learning how to live on my own and who I am in my head.

Sometimes, it feels like I’ve been here before. I sit on the steep stairs and count five whole minutes of deja-vu. The alleyway becomes a graveyard of shadows, the sky grows deeper. I watch as a pair of college students, perched precariously in a leaking rowboat, drink red wine straight from the bottle.

The seconds zip by so fast. I watch as they drift past my nose, listen to the whoosh of their departure. “I will never forget this feeling” I promise myself before falling asleep. I sense change coming and time moving on and I feel like all of these places are the manifestation of dreams from long ago.

The city, the destination, the liftoff, they are all temporary, painfully impermanent. Can you count with me? Can you feel yourself growing older?

Tuesday morning: there is music sifting through the bathroom window, from the courtyard below. I open the curtains and stand listening with a toothbrush in my mouth. I have collected moments like this my entire life. The slideshow of my memory: one beautiful, imperfect, jumble of singing, and train windows, and sweet cherries on street corners.

Do you get it? Am I explaining this the way I wanted? It means so much to have been there and to have grown and to have seen those people and sun-bleached streets and crumbling canals. It means so much to fill my head with this hopeful glow, to let my visions grow from sea salt dust and candles and gelato for breakfast.

I never want to give up on anticipation and sultry salty air and noontime sun showers. I want to forever press pause on that bus passing by, the overripe peaches I bought at a market stall, the anesthetic pressure of the next few seconds and the possibilities they hold.

For every page I write, there are three more I imagine and forget. It makes me wonder how many memories have done the same. How many details and faces and passing gazes have evaporated into the fog of my abstracted mind?

On the morning I’m scheduled to leave, it rains. I walk to the cafe and eat scrambled eggs and hot chocolate on the veranda and everything feels a little better, a little rounder around the edges. I count the black umbrellas that pass by. I try to forget that the countdown has started.

I will leave soon. I will scrape the salt from my eyebrows, rinse the sunshine from my hair, pretend this hasn’t changed me, that I can still drink iced coffee and wake at noon and calculate time without my fingers.

These are the days I will remember when I’m forty, sixty-five, ninety-two. They will never get crumpled or buried or washed away with the tides. They will forever be those days when I was eighteen and expectant and untethered across Italy. One galivanting poet, a pair of red sneakers, and the last few seconds she can squeeze from the nectar of summer: overripe, running over, falling away.

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