There is Winter Somewhere: a Diary

day 1 of never-ending summer

He is in her memory and the day is blue with snow.

It’s been so long and somehow, she’d warped that image into rows of memory-bridges swinging over messy icy rivers. The slippery wood of planks and his scarf are the only colours in her head.

This is her only memory of a happy friendship: walking up to Misha wrapped in layers of clothing forced on her by Mother, and pulling a large slice of fresh cake out of her bag. Its dry and heavy with soft fruit and cracks his face into a smile. They walk off the bridge and onto the smallest island that decks out their city.

Loitering around a decadent playground constructed for the summer enjoyment of kindergarteners, he tells her of the stories his grandfather has planned for them once it gets warmer. They’re sitting on top of a colourful row of slides. She knows they are colorful, but doesn’t see that now in her head. Instead there are the threads of his hands splayed over hers. He squeezes hard as he kicks his feet around and laughs between bites. “Come with me this summer, Amelja” he says half-heartedly. Both of them know she won’t, and he’s asked so often—she nods and vows on her life to plead her case harder. “Though you now what Mama is like,” she sighs and lets herself fall backwards and lies there. Misha follows her lead and then there is only colourless half-twilight sky and his breath, filled with fruit.

day 2191 of never-ending summer

There was that one day when she went out to buy ice cream and slipped back into love. The closing of the ice cream shop was the end of summer for everyone, but it was hot and the lines were long.

It’s strange to her now, because the narrow yellow street that was so exhausting and depressing then, now becomes a home she can see her ghost someday occupy forever. She experiences her surroundings in this criteria, if I come back as a ghost, would I be happy here forever?

The change is sweaty and hot in her palm as she looks over the street. There are storm clouds boiling over the buildings across, but the line of people and their street are layered in sharp unobscured sun. There is a cool finger pressing on the back of her neck in a playful familiar rhythm and she falls through the concrete and back into winter.

day 2191.5 of never-ending summer

“You’re always feeding me” he laughs and laps up the melting ice cream out of her hand. They’re soaked and sitting under a tree that begins to shed its leaves.

Huge drops fall into the bucket of pistachio as she digs in again. “How went the adventures?” She peers behind them into the alcove of their block yard to look for the colourful caravans lining the park. She’s seen them last so many years ago, and now Misha is back and his sticky hand is on her cheek as he shakes his head. “I took the bus.”

“Where from?’ Amelja feels nosy but if he came to see her then he musn’t mind. “What if I had moved?” she asks, and he stares at her surprised, “You haven’t moved though.”
“You move all the time, why can’t I?”
“Your parents wouldn’t let you just move away.”

She feels too young to be sitting here and eating sweets alone with him. She’s never felt so little before. Not when she was out running around with a horde of the neighbouring gypsy kids against mother’s orders. She has never felt like a child with Misha. Not sneaking out to meet him, or diving into the dirty river after floods with the bad family kids. She wants to tell him that while he was gone she’d gotten drunk with just boys. That she’d tried things too, that he wasn’t the only one who had stories to tell and adventures, but it all sounds so silly now in her head. She looks at him angry. “You didn’t answer my question. Where do you live now?” Misha fumbles for a bit and pulls out a crumpled paper with an address. The T is smudged with rain.

They are hidden under the tree and don’t exist to outsiders.

“Have you ever kissed a girl?” she asks, and he laughs and laughs; the water around his eyes dries.

day 2466 of never-ending summer

He only had that one window in the room, but it befriends the rain and no summer storm can stay out. He now memorizes time in droplets; a vivid childhood, and a progressively hazier todayness. There is a chaos in the small corner of his occupied bed and he knows someone loves him, but cannot physically recollect a face with the precision that he can still see the fish scales on freshly caught carp. Across him, there hangs a lonely polka-dot dress in the closet; it has been left behind as a sign. The smoke of food and his grandfather passes through his teeth and he is coiled, hissing into the morning.

His grandfather is dead. He knows this. Was there when the caravans caught fire and fell like cards, and he is aware that his mind has partially burned in the process of the few hours it took to kill him. Misha hears his grandfather’s voice from the kitchen, telling him he isn’t alone and that his parents are probably alive somewhere but he doesn’t identify as a thing that has parents. Parents were what stopped people from stories, and wrapped them in oily layers of bruises. He had grandfather, and his grandfathers’ sorrow songs and summer. Always summer now, stuffed into tasty bokoli and marshes where the sun would set, and then the heavy stars, bending the sky into hot pine trees.

He is loved, he tells himself as he sets out on a bus, bewildered and stunned at actually doing it. There is a difference in the city from the bus. The colours are washed out through the glass and he clasps the small note in his pocket hard. His address is clear and dark on the yellowish paper skin and mirrors Amelja’s wrist, the first time he saw her.

His grandfather used to say that her family would’ve been better being Roma because they had pride but nothing to be proud of. Amelia lived on the upper floor of an old German-built factory and he lived outside it. Before they were friends, there were bruises under her summer dresses that you could always see, but she was laughing and wild with him and his friends, and her Mother would talk to his grandfather for long hours about adult problems and he would give her chao with milk. Then the bruises stopped and for a while, so did Amelja.

Women talked that the father was gone, but no one had ever seen him anyways and it wasn’t long before he and Amelja sneaked out to see each other and explore the small river islands across the street. The bus wheezes towards familiar streets and he sees her standing in a line, shouts for the driver to stop and jumps.

Then he is back in his corner remembering the name Amelja. Was she loved? Grandfather’s voice rattles the pans in the small cupboard kitchen, screaming about the letter in his hand. For a few weeks he was a father. Now, no more.

He forgets everything but the sweet milk his grandfather added to chao.

day 28489 of never-ending summer

The institution is modern, steel bars in the windows gleaming as she steps across the yard that is paved with slabs of white cement. There is grass growing between the spaces and young trees. It is July and she thinks of a Chekhov story about the crazy man. This is that, she thinks to herself.

Everyone wears green frocks inside, the difference between staff and patients is a shade of green. Amelja wonders at the meaning of walls as she walks behind a nurse down a corridor with no doors. Walls seem so momentary and brittle with no roots to grip to the ground. She thinks back to the porous sounds they let through and keep out; all the wrong things, all the wrong sounds. No one hears what they should.

She’s told he’s safe to be around, so they can be alone without supervision. She cannot remember them ever being supervised together as she sits down beside his bare feet on a hard mattress. The room is as white as winter, and he’s pale; his eyes are milky. She cannot quite come to remember him without dark skin. He looks like a leather jacket that had been soaked and left out to mould.

She loves him, and tries to remember all things about them from before, to tell him.

Misha has his chin on his folded up knees. Wrapped in himself, he looks out into the room. Even now she thinks that he has so many more adventures there in his head. She expects him to flinch as she strokes his head, hair as coarse as a horse, but he smiles instead and she begins feeding him cake. He swallows greedily, smiling.

 fin.