by Nadia Henderson
When I think of the first time we came here, I think of the smell of fried doughnuts, and the sugar on your lips. The sun had brought the freckles out across your collarbone and had turned the back of my neck a fire red. My skin sizzled under your sticky-sweet touch.
Eros (who, actually, wasn’t Eros at all) was full of surprises, and you were quick to dispel his enigma. I watched a group of tourists point their cameras at the statue while you spilled all of its secrets, your breath hot at my ear. ‘He’s made of aluminium.’
I thought about our eros, and how it had been poured over us like molten bronze, leaving us nothing more than figurines, drying out under the endless summer sun. How long had it been since you’d arrived here, since we’d run into each other in the overheated basement at Medusa’s? Connections made within its velvet-curtained womb normally crackled intensely between the early hours and the following evening, before the boredom and angst of real life came back into horrible focus. We’d, somehow, made it three weeks.
I saw more of my home city in those days with you than I’d ever seen of it before. I followed you down cobbled streets, through wild cemeteries and into the high-ceilinged chambers of museums I’d only vaguely heard the names of. I knocked knees with you on trains we took to nearby seaside towns, drank too much beer on warm nights and bit my bottom lip to keep my feels from falling out.
“If I look up, it will be to search for somebody who no longer exists; the you of a summer past.”
You left the hoodie on purpose. Its chewed-up sleeves hung miserably from the back of my desk chair, and the powder pink had greyed around the neckline. It was a strange, sad thing, to see it detached from you, knowing you wouldn’t be coming back for it.
It took me two months to find the note. The fancy – and empty – bottle of red wine I’d treated myself to rolled softly off the side of the bed and onto the carpet below. I pulled your hoodie around me so tightly the stitching came loose on the arms. I dug my hands into the pockets and there: a familiar texture, creased, dry. I unfolded it. Words, and a date not yet passed. Eros – 14th of August, 2017.
I didn’t come here in a heartbeat, you know. I’ve imagined so many lives for you over the years, none of which involve you revisiting this place, this time, that lost month you spent sleeping on kind strangers’ sofas until you found your way onto mine. You have become something else, with your almost-finished masters, and your unfaltering faith in humanity. You, surely, have become something more. I roll the folded paper over between my fingers, smooth it back out, keep my eyes trained on the pavement. If I look up, it will be to search for somebody who no longer exists; the you of a summer past, who pulled pink threads from sleeves and sucked on straw ends leaning into the plush walls of an underground bar.
Now, like the first time we came here, there’s Eros who, actually, isn’t Eros at all. There’s the sweet waft of fried food mixed with the thick fumes from the roads. There are the tourists, loud and expressive; group guides holding unusual objects above their heads as beacons for their flocks to follow. There are people, somewhere between strangers and lovers, just as we were; holding each other’s hands loosely, slowly moving thumbs over wrists and palms, trying to learn their lines.