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Home: The Toast

Let’s be cool for the Summer, she had said. And they – we – were. But all things die, even Summer, and nothing is cool now.

Let me tell you my story, while there is still breath in my mouth to speak it.

I was eating cherries the day we met. “I just need to take a bite,” she had told me before taking one, which is not the same thing as asking. She was careless, both in mind and body, and frequently mixed the two of them up. People who are sure of their possession are often careless.

Tell me what you want, she had said. Then, later, what you like. (What you want and what you like are two different things, her eyes told me. It’s okay.) But always with the imperative: Tell me.

“For the summer” is a death sentence; nothing that blooms in summer survives the fall. She never made a promise she could not keep. We were a little curious; we learned the answer in full. Tell me if it’s wrong, if it’s right, she had asked. It had always been a question without an answer.

On the first day of fall, I woke up with every hair on my head bone-white and brittle as straw. I have kept all her secrets, all but one. They are shut up in my joints and in my veins. They will be buried with me.

Leave names off any headstone you place to mark where my body lies. Let any souls who happen to wander past my grave know only that I was cool for the summer.

She only took a single bite, but it consumed me.

I never told my mother. I don’t regret that, not now, but if – if you see her, you might tell her for me. I would have liked to have seen her, once more.

The morning of the first frost came, and I found that I could not move my legs below the knees. When I pass water, it is dyed scarlet with my own blood, tho’ I cannot find any visible injuries. The blood is coming from a wound internal.

We were cool. Tell them! Tell them all! For the summer, we were cool, she and I! We kissed one another, now I die for us.

That raven-eyed witch! Kiss and lie, kiss and die. If I had never kissed her, I could see my mother again. I could live to see winter. I could have eaten all the cherries in my own basket, without sharing a single one. But she took me into her paradise, and now the gates that would lead home are shut and barred.

Svmer is icumen in, lhude sing cuccu! (Summer is a-coming in, loud sing cuckoo!)

Svmer is endung. Cuccu, álynne. (Summer is dying. Cuckoo, cease singing.)

Don’t be scared ’cause I’m your body type, she sang to me once, when the sun was high above us. I am scared now, but for different reasons.

Next summer she will find another, I am sure of it. And they will be cool. For a time.

She’ll have your body on her mind, until she doesn’t. You’re something that she wants to try. After you are tried, you will be found wanting.

Take me down into your paradise, she said. But she built her home in that sweet-scented garden, and locked me out of it.

Nothing is cool now, only cold. I will not see another summer.

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