& this is how it goes, that slasher-film summer when the heat waves broke every record, laughing sick to our stomachs & stealing sips of beer from our cousins’ green-tinted bottles, when all we did was sit in a stupor on the front porch, watching people come & go & come & go while sweat soaked through the straps of my blouse; that summer when everything was so delicately knife’s-edge balanced that i couldn’t outrun the fear of making the wrong move, so i convinced myself it was all hopeless, that there was no way forward no way back no way through— it was summer, so we were supposed to be having the time of our lives, not weeping with our mouths stuffed full of freezer-burned ice cream, not mumbling god i don’t know what i want please don’t make me choose over & over like he could hear us, & this is how it goes, that syrup-sweet summer when it took all my brainpower to memorize that fleeting moment, the sour lemonade & glare off the yellow streetlights; that summer when it took every bit of my courage to beg: c’mon, say yes, let’s take the bus three stops past nowhere just one last time; say yes because all of this will be gone tomorrow; say yes because i’m fifteen & scared of the future & i need you. it was summer, so anything was possible, but i didn’t care— i was busy counting our remaining daylight hours, busy trying to calm my nerves, busy busy busy, my mind going 90 miles an hour down the freeway with the windows down & superheated santa ana winds in my face & this is how it goes, that god-awful summer spent with your sticky hand on my thigh, repeating it’ll all work out stop moving stay still calm down, but don’t you see i can’t? don’t you see how this fear has made me feel like a fly forever trapped in amber? don’t you see how my palms have blistered under the pressure, how i need you to sit beside me as life as we know it crumbles & rebuilds itself & crumbles again, how i need you to tell me that you believe in me, that one of these days i’ll make my peace with change, that even then, you’ll be here to live & relive the summer of our discontent again & again & again & again & again &
Leela Raj-Sankar is an Indian-American teenager from Arizona. Their work has appeared in Mixed Mag, Warning Lines, and Ghost Heart Lit, among others. In his spare time, he enjoys playing board games and listening to Elliot Smith. Say hi to her on Twitter @sickgirlisms.