All of it has dissolved: the thumbprints on your waist, the scratches on your back, the tanline on your left index finger where you wore her ring, the taste and temperature of her mouth (this one long ago), the stilted breathing when you hovered too close, the roots that grew from your back into the earth every one of your nights together, the memory of her name, gaze, double-jointedness, the way she wore a disheveled tank top at the peak of a heat wave, the arrhythmic delivery of caustic answers to your stuttered questions, the street you lived on together for nine Sundays and the days in-between them, the way it began and ended so abruptly, her voice.
Certain synesthetic moments might trigger something – a shadow of a memory that will register faintly, or as a dream. The smell of turpentine with the sound of a jackhammer. The tightness of a small bandage as you eat citrus. A sustained falling sensation when you play a diminished chord. There are a dozen other opportunities and each one might reward you with a flash of her eyes, wrists or calves – fleeting but overwhelming.
Rest assured, she existed. Her memory erodes, but every one of us experienced those seventy-two days on the cusp of adulthood. You don’t remember her. Do you remember the fire escape where you met, perched on the edge of that infinite city? Do you remember when she led you up to her unit and let you feast on her? Do you remember being male? We all share the same buried memories. We all mourn their decay.
Her face you meet with some distant recognition every time you come across it. And while she is forgotten, her elements have slunk their way into art and literature since time immemorial. She is recreated for all of us constantly – as we walk through a gallery, as we pass a wall of graffiti, as we watch a grainy film late at night. There is no piecing together the details of that summer, but her face almost brings a spark.
Her memory isn’t lost forever to you. It resurfaces at the end, when you meet her sister. The rush of greens, the 3am conversations, the brush of fingers, your first real orgasm, the rising and falling of her chest, a boundless euphoria. You remember and reminisce, sitting perched on a different fire escape on the edge of a very different endless city with her sister as she takes your hand and one last time you are flooded with memories.
Illustration by Lucy Salgado