My Cousin Returns from College, Summer 2019 | Teen Ink

My Cousin Returns from College, Summer 2019

August 14, 2019
By jl637 DIAMOND, Livingston, New Jersey
jl637 DIAMOND, Livingston, New Jersey
72 articles 0 photos 16 comments

she’s wearing a mickey-mouse t-shirt & her hair is frizzy in the lemon sun. it’s a lazy summer, the air humming with static electricity as we stroll through the neighborhood, our fingers lathered with ice cream, sticky sweet. how are you? she says, her voice both familiar & new, soft like the honeydew we used to sink our teeth into when we were both kids & our bodies had not yet been stretched out with time. i’m good, i tell her, a smile playing across my lips, light spilling over the inseam of the horizon, the dark brown of her eyes. i’m glad to see you, i continue. she returns my smile, a dimple revealing itself on her left cheek. it's been too long, she says. her arm twitches, hesitates, before she drapes it around my shoulder, & we talk about school, music, the tv show we’re both currently obsessed with. how long are you staying? i ask, a knot taking root in my stomach. she’s quiet for a moment. only a few days. her arm stiffens against my shoulder. my parents want me to live with them in China before heading off to grad school. i nod, remembering days in Beijing spent on a bike meant for one but gracious enough to accommodate the youth of another, the two of us flying through bustling city streets, stomachs reeling from laughter. riding past markets packed with sweaty bodies & dead fish, snaggle-toothed vendors & piss-smelling stalls. a million sounds & colors, & still, not enough time to soak it all in. to tell her that i’d miss her, that i was afraid time would cloak itself over our bodies until we were unrecognizable, until i wouldn’t know the olive shade of her hand from a stranger’s. now, a new distance settles between us, heavy & silent in the blistering air. do you remember the bike rides? i ask. outside, the sky blooms shades of red & orange. of course, she says, slow & wistful in the waning light. of course i remember. those were good times. i nod. we walk in silence, our mouths burning with words we’re not quite sure how to say. when we return home, my parents muse loudly about how tall she’s gotten, how grown-up. we exchange silent glances over dinner when we think the other’s not looking, testing out this reborn friendship between us, relearning. in a few days, she’ll leave once more, like the last hint of summer rusting as green gives way to brown. she’ll wave goodbye, a sad smile sewn across her lips, her olive hand glistening in soft sunlight, leaving me to wonder how so much has changed, yet knowing that if somehow i saw that olive hand again, reflected in the mirrors of bicycles in Beijing, if i heard her honeydew voice among the bustling city din, i would reach out to her in a heartbeat. i would run until i found her olive hand in mine. call to her until our voices took flight, singing each other’s names. 

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