Summer Nights

There we were, seventeen years old, and sneaking out with my mother’s best china–
Handled with care, of course, and only to the woods out back, but we’d have to flee,
Leave the state, maybe the country, if we so much as cracked a plate. We’d already crafted lies,
Fine and flawless as the porcelain itself, and to have to change our stories – we just weren’t that good.
But it was worth it – sipping wine from champagne flutes, our lipstick leaving rings on our cigarettes,
Our slinky cocktail dresses and pinstriped suits caked with mud – it was a glorious evening in summer,

Just after our final year of high school. It’s funny, how songs and stories call it the “endless summer,”
When every glance at the calendar felt like a betrayal. Somehow it was already mid-July, the china
Glowing eerily beneath the unnaturally large new moon, while the lit, glowing ends of our cigarettes
Bobbed like fireflies in the dark. It seemed unfair, that the two months of freedom we had could flee
So quickly when high school had seemed never-ending, the way you always awaken from good
Dreams prematurely, but feel locked in nightmares forever. As evidenced by that night, though, lies

Had become our artform, and we were as skilled at decieving ourselves as anyone. We lied –
To ourselves, to each other – about our fear, how cocksure and confident we were of life after this summer,
About how self-assured we were about our place in the world, about our certantiy that we would make good
On the promises we had made ourselves and others. We would travel abroad, we swore – England, Spain, China.
We would accept challenging internships at major companies, move to Manhattan, and don smart suits; we would flee
To SoHo and live in a bohemian commune, go vegan, and create art from the remnants of burned out cigarettes.

We would have torrid sexual exploits, strings of eager lovers in our beds smoking post-coital cigarettes;
We would settle down early, and start a family. Whatever our story was, we knew, we knew it was a lie.
As we clinked glasses, slightly tipsy with champagne and heat and our own clever ideas, the summer would flee,
Leaving us, in our grown-up costumes, woefully unprepared. It was so easy then to pretend, in the lull of summer,
That things would fall into place come September – they always did – and nowhere, reflected in the luminous china
Or caught in the flicker of passing headlights, did our faces betray the knowledge that all of our good

Intentions would come to nothing in the end. In lieu of talking, we threw ourselves back; the cool grass felt good
On our feverish skin as we lay there, acutely aware of the turning of the earth below us. We stubbed out our cigarettes,
And lay in silence, watching the skies. It was only then that the melancholy set in; in the lulls, in the delicate-as-china
Silence, in the moments we stared into the fathomlessness of the sky — in the face of that gaping silence, we could not lie.
In the dark, we reached out, each of us of our own accord, and felt through the grass for one another, for the touch of summer,
Sun-kissed skin, and nervous fingers we could lace between our own. Even the boys, who I knew would normally flee

In the face of such an expression clung, white-knuckled, together. Most of us, we knew, would never flee
This town; we’d settle down too soon and grow resentful, or play the field too long and grow restless. Our “good
Jobs” would be semi-respectable office positions that any warm body could fill, but would pay the bills; in the summer,
We’d take awful, touristy vacations with bitter wives, bored husbands, and screaming children. Our teeth would be cigarette
Stained, our hair would go gray. In that moment, on that glorious night in summer, we realized that, really, the biggest lie
We told ourselves was that we were different. This was the closest we’d get to our fantasies – silly picnics with fine china.

We could excuse the sweaty palms in the heat of summer, but why did we hold on so tight? It would never be this good again,
We would never be this free, and here we were, so paralyzed with fear we let this time flee from us. It would happen to us, too:
Our fingers stained by cigarettes, we’d never smile. We’d lie and say we were happy. We’d never use the good china.