summer soles

There are a million different things I should be doing right now. That’s the thing about life: there’s so much to do that ‘carpe diem’ will only get you so far. I have an online class I haven’t touched, a short story I’ve been obsessed with for days now, medications I’ve forgotten to take, sleep I’ve lost, and here I am trying to move mountains with my bare hands. The mountains are in my brain, though. And they’re not moving any time soon.

I work at the coffee shop I live up the street from and have been going to for years. The number of school papers, stories, and poems I’ve written there is in the triple digits by now. It is a dream come true to be behind the bar making coffee and listening to music for hours at a time. I wake up at the butt crack of dawn for most of my shifts, and I’ve kindled a love hate relationship for the early morning. Although I hate that first jolt of consciousness in the morning, there is one thing that gets me out of bed. The drive down my hill at six in the morning is my most peaceful time of day. After weeks of re-paving the road, it is a smooth coast down straight mountain. The sun is still rubbing its eyes and he blinks at me from the horizon I sail towards. My face is covered in the yellow glow that warms the earth around me. Sometimes I play music, but most times I sit in silence.

There is one curve of road in my neighborhood that has held bits of my heart over the years, whether I wanted it to or not. It is a stretch of about twenty yards (I’m terrible at estimating and I have no good metaphors to give you at the moment so please just hang with me) with two patches of grass, three trees, one mailbox, and orange cement. Whether it was wiping out on my broken wrist in third grade, or having my first kiss freshman year, that pavement saw it. But mostly, it saw many steps of one of the most important relationships in my life.

I met Lexi through a very close friend of ours: Lola, my dog. Lexi was the owner of Lola’s brother, Remington. She also just happened to live down the street and up one cul de sac. I remember meeting her for the first time in third grade. It’s weird because I don’t remember the date or time or who else was there. I just remember standing in my school uniform, a navy jumper with a white polo peaking out the collar, on her doorstep. I figured she was too cool for me because she went to the other public school. I was the loser from the smart kid school that would cultivate me into the anxiety ridden teen I am today. Would she think I was cool enough?

Newsflash: somehow, some way, she did. My frantic brain was put to rest.

And thus erupted a friendship like no other. Or rather, it was a very typical relationship between two girls who were still young. The hormones hadn’t plagued us yet. Our ovaries hadn’t decided to pop out some eggs once a month, we were flat chested, we were grossed out by boys because we assumed they were all like her brothers, we were young. I met Lexi before anything bad ever really happened in my life. Perhaps that’s why I can’t drive past a fucking piece of cement without being reminded of her.

Lexi and I spent every breathing moment together during our summers and weekends. Some of those adventures are too precious and private to share to the random people reading this (who even are you?). The best memory I have with her is on the first day of summer going into my fourth or fifth grade year.

She waltzed up to my house with those thin, tan legs I always envied. She looked like the sun made out with her instead of just kissing her. Lexi is one of the most beautiful girls I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, inside and out. Her heart is warmer than a thousand of the suns that kissed her earlier. And when I say that Lexi has the voice of an angel, I really believe it. As an ex band mate, I have some authority to say that. I know Lexi is reading this right now, so I’ll stop blowing her horn with matter of fact statements that aren’t poetic in the slightest.

I stared at Lexi and asked why she didn’t have any shoes on. We lived on a mountain for God’s sake, there were pine needles and rocks everywhere. She looked at me with a gleaming smile and told me that her mom always used to walk around in the summer time without shoes. The cement is warm this time of year, she said. Truer words had never been spoken. It is such a trivial encounter in the grand scheme of my life, but I can’t seem to get it out of my head. Lexi taught me how to take breaks in life and to feel the cement while it was warm because there were cold seasons approaching at my heels.

We put on concerts in her basement on a broken table top that served as our stage and did the things every normal kid did. She was going to be a famous pop singer one day and I’d write the songs with her and dance. I really do love dancing. When I do it now, I feel like I’m back with Lexi. And for three and a half minutes of some mainstream, over-sexualized pop song, I blend in. I blend in with the music and the crowds and I flow. I used to love hearing her sing because it made me feel weightless. We’d float out of childhood and into bratty ‘teenagerdom’ soon enough and her voice felt like the pathway into life. We both had these special talents and passions that no other kid our age did. I think that’s why we bonded. Or I’m delusional and I was actually a clingy stalker she couldn’t shake.

I wasn’t robbed of my childhood by technology as most adults seem to assume because of my age. I climbed rocks outside and played games with my neighborhood kids. My shoes were always muddy, I never stopped swimming, and I practically lived at Lexi’s house one summer. I was a happy kid, and I think that’s where everyone gets lost when they look at current me. They don’t realize that I’ve always been a little whacko, I just haven’t always had the guts or awareness to express it.

When I think back on all the time I had with Lexi, I can’t help but ache with the desire to have those days back. Maybe not have them back, but visit them. Watch myself be a normal kid and not in pain. See myself sing with Lexi on that tabletop and put on shows for our parents, fearlessly. I’d love to be me. The me I was eight years ago before everything slowly started falling apart and coming together like a never-ending Jenga puzzle that continually has to be rebuilt. But I’m learning that life is just a messy, forever incomplete puzzle. 

One of these days, I’ll get my feet back on the ground. And when I do, it’ll be my bare soles on the summer cement.

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