So we beat on, but parties and lives get smaller
You can never live the same summer twice, but the children in the park don’t know this yet. What they know is the scent of warm tarmac, the sun like a lightbulb, pretend pirates on a playground cast out at sea. When did we stop being pirates on our pretend ship? We put our imaginations on a plate and asked for the highest bidder. The world got bigger and pirates were just one of the many things we would never be. And this thought makes me want to get so rum drunk that I think I am a pirate again.
You say being in the park on a Sunday makes you feel old. Especially when the sky’s been grey all summer. Especially when you’re a little hungover. Especially when you’re alone. I watch the young parents push their buggies or walk their greyhounds and wonder would I rather be a child again or would I rather be in love?
I want summer to come back. I want melted ice lollies, sweat, faith that the sun will make me feel better. I want a summer that lasts forever. I want to live inside a photo of a pale rosé night like the people outside pubs in the sun that look like they’re in an advert. But the sky feels like the world is ending and, just for a moment, the melodrama of this average weekend feels profound.
You can’t repeat the past. I studied English Literature so I should know this, but I don’t. So, like Gatsby, I threw a party. Most of my housemates didn’t come and people kept asking me how I felt about that. The truth is that I wanted every party to be exactly like the first. Like the summer I moved in when the clubs were still closed and our flat felt like the centre of the world.
The last party, the one I threw to repeat the past, happened two weeks ago. As I wandered between the porch and the kitchen, I realised nothing would ever go back to how it used to be. And because it wouldn’t be how it was and it wouldn’t be how I wished it, I had decided to leave. My therapist said it sounded like I was running away. I am, in a way, but maybe leaving is always running.
When I read The Great Gatsby for the first time, I liked the way it was written, but I didn’t get it like I do now. I didn’t have a past yet. Not really. One afternoon, I helped my teenage best friend paint his bedroom. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” I thought it sounded pretty and it made sense to brush his room with literary references. Those were the sort of teenagers we were. Bookish, pretentious, tirelessly referential.
I went to see the film at the cinema twice. The first person I dated told me that I was like Daisy to them. We still thought Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights were love stories. In another friend’s room were the words, “These violent delights have violent ends.” We were always thinking about the past and endings, but the only thing that had really ended was our childhoods.
Time changes everything. The week before I leave, I go for a drink with an ex and I spend an evening at my old uni. I'm feeling particularly sentimental, living in the past while catapulting into the future. There's something about leaving a city that feels like leaving a lover. I know the curve of every cracked pavement. The hum of traffic like a love song. The sunset kissing the tops of warehouses. My housemates and I stand by the window and talk about the sky. I stand by the window and think about leaving. Time is leaking out and there are so many things we will never do.
Last New Year’s Eve, I read an old journal entry from the night the year turned into 2014. In it, I had written about how I wanted to die. I messaged a friend because she had been reading her old journals lately too. She told me, “Be kind to yourself tonight because she is still you.”
The only constant is change and that means nothing really changes. Each party lives inside the last. The days live inside the others. I’m every age I’ve ever been and every place I’ve ever lived. Every quote scrawled across teenage bedroom walls that we're waiting to understand.