Moods and Phases, by Viktoria Dahill
We were young and the summer was ours.
The world was as it should be, but when I was drunk and emotional, I ruined it. We were probably sixteen, but like the first job we all take in some awful customer service position, the memory of it lacks detail.
That summer very much still exists, like the shells of hay bales we burned at the edge of the local farmer’s property. Singed into my memory. I guess I regret it. Not so much the words I said, but rather the look on your face. The way your eyes disappeared into the crush of your eyelids and the skin of your cheeks pulled tight.
The free time of summer ran away from me and in the aftermath I feared confronting you, so I didn’t. I was glad we went to different schools the next year and were thousands of miles away. But I’m not sorry. I should have hated you much sooner.
Having said that, the argument still comes back to me sometimes. Most often, it’s in the heat of New England’s summers. In the quiet moments between feeding logs to my fire pit or the strained songs of Spring Peeper frogs at sunset. In those instances, it’s easier to deal with the fact that I lost a friend.
But then there are instances where I recall our lush relationship—in public bathrooms at a large shopping mall, when being surrounded by milling mothers and children, couples, and taut gift-searchers makes me nervous. Doubt rises in those moments, and I recognise that I’m in that peculiar time in my life when every stranger I see reminds me of you.
The awareness fills my stomach beyond contentment, so on a good day, I can barely eat. This creates a sensation that has an odd bearing on my limbs. The rusty kinetics of rising from a seated position would fool any onlooker into thinking I’m twice my age.
Love seems to suffocate me, dragging me to the very edge of consciousness before thrusting my head violently above the water so I gasp for air. My past experience with love was an arid desert and something, I’ve decided, I’ll happily never endure again.
When I recognise that perhaps I loved you, I focus on things I can control instead. Like the temperature and frequency of my showers, the length of my jogs, or the amount of money I spend on lattes.
I never go to New York or Vermont anymore, because the White Mountains remind me of you. I refuse to look for you and amend things, though, even when thoughts of you flood my head and make me dizzy.
I make excuses to remain mad at you, or convince myself your name is too common to search successfully on social media. We’ve changed so much, perhaps you look different now, and I won’t recognise you.
Even if I slept with that man, I wasn’t lying to you about my feelings.
Viktoria Dahill is a London Library Emerging Writer and her short fiction appears in Free Flash Fiction, Streetcake and Moss Puppy Mag. Her novel was shortlisted for the Grindstone International Novel Prize and Faber Academy’s Write Your Novel Scholarship.