"Walking up sun-dappled Joralemon Street this morning after a long swim in the floating pool, I was hit by a cold breeze and then a pang of nostalgia so sharp it took my breath away. In the pool, I’d swum a few laps and then abandoned myself to the kind of mermaid games I used to entertain myself with for hours as a child, after swim team season was over and I was finally allowed to wear a two-piece suit, my brown legs and arms contrasting oddly with the vulnerable white of my stomach. I flipped and dove and sunk to the bottom to look up at the bubbles I made and the blindingly blue sky above me, the sky the same color as the cool blue water, and I could have been any age, fifteen again, milking the last weekend of summer at West Hillandale Swim Club (go Dolphins!). Back then, I would linger in the pool every day because every day felt like the last, and I wanted to memorize the feel of the water and the sun on my skin to keep it with me through the chilly fall and the cold winter, when I’d be slicing laps through the murky, tepid water of indoor pools, their blue a blurry imitation blue.
I knew I couldn’t actually make the feeling last, that I would forget about it as soon as it was gone and not remember again until the next summer, but I always tried. And though this summer has been scary and unfamiliar and wrenching and sad at times, I miss it already, I think because despite the sadness, there was real happiness too.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying with a degree of success that’s surprised me not to think of Jake at all. And when I do, I usually make myself think of negative things. There certainly are plenty to choose from: the pathetic, cowardly way he broke it off with me, the charming words that, in retrospect, echo as lies. The enduring suspicion that he never really cared for me at all.
But as I was walking home from the pool today, in the blinding sun with just a hint of chill in the air, I let myself remember the innocence and happiness of our first kisses, him ardent as a teenager, me trembling with uncertainty and excitement. And then the stolen kisses in alleyways, the thrill of those furtive weeks. And then the fulfilled promise of his charm, that handful of charming evenings: the night we ate like animals at a restaurant, staring at each other constantly, laughing hard every few minutes, taking a cab ten blocks afterwards because we couldn’t have waited any longer.
It was so good when it was good, and the reasons why it was good, while more apparent now, don’t matter so much. Who cares that his appeal was artificially enhanced, the same way a stale Balthazar croissant becomes the world’s most delicious treat if you eat it after a morning of hard swimming? The satisfaction, in the moment, is the same.
And though I wish I could have that satisfaction now, I know I’ll never be able to have it again, at least, not with him. It’s like (Susan, I know, I’m beating this one into the ground) right now, I’m very hungry, but not for just anything, just for this one specific food. But now I know it to be poison. And even if the poison food was available to me now, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy eating it, knowing it was poison. So I’ll starve, I suppose, at least for a while, and the discomfort of starving will teach me to be hungry for something more wholesome. Something that will give me satisfaction that lasts."
Sometimes Emily Gould just nails it, doesn't she?