There are other memories too. Other bits of things surfacing. Not horrors. The joy we carved out within the interstices of horror.
Sharing a swing in a park somewhere—maybe the same park where we watched the clouds. I remember swinging there when I was small and held on tight to Natalya while she did most of the work. But I think we shared a swing later too. We made out on those swings—not when we were swinging high, obviously, but just drifting. There is a whole boxful of swinging memories with her.
I keep thinking about frozen things: mainly lemon popsicles. Those seem to have been the best. There was a drug store with an ice cream counter. For a while, it was her strawberry—until she switched to orange—and my mint. We traded cones, licked each other’s. It seems to me ice cream was a quarter in those days. We could manage that much at least sometimes. Or we had only one cone between the two of us and shared that.
But Natalya had to try all the flavours—it wasn’t always the same with her. She had to have each of them at least once before settling down on a favourite.
I remember these things and then I wonder: Did this really happen? Am I mixing this up? Or making it up entirely? Was the strawberry my sister’s favourite and not Natalya’s? And I don’t know, but I’m sure about the orange. Some of it probably is wrong. Maybe some of it is confused. Still, at least some of it is right.
In these memories, it is perpetually summer. It can’t have always been summer though, and I remember running home from somewhere in shaky high heels behind her, our wet hair streaming with rain. Then shivering together until the hot shower could warm us up again.
I remember, too, coffee on late, cold nights. Hers was always more milk than coffee, it seemed, and sugary. But over time I started to prefer mine black. Opposites, in that, but the same in so many others.
And it’s all so good. Except for the stuff in between. Except for the main things. Except for the reason she was there at all and the reason I knew her in the first place.