We were such children, then. Even more so than we are now.
We sat on a bench in the courtyard next to a dorm where only juniors and seniors lived, and we felt important. As though our very proximity to maturity would somehow elicit understanding and unlock answers.
We were drinking Zima then. That or Boone's Farm. Whatever we could con an upperclassmen into buying for us from the gas station out on Route 13. We dropped candy into our bottles; Skittles, Jolly Ranchers, anything that would turn the liquid some obnoxiously bright color and leave our tongues stained with red, purple, or green. At the end of each bottle, the lump of melted candy would rattle around if it hadn't dissipated altogether. It never occurred to us to wonder that whatever chemical reaction was taking place between the malt liqour and the candy might be having a similar effect on us.
The end of her cigarette left light trails in the air like fireflies. I can't remember specifically what we were talking about, only that it felt terribly important at the time and that I would have told her anything. After a few years, we would get into an argument over something one of us thought the other had said and never speak again. We didn't know enough then to know that some friendships are transitory; that not every person with whom you find a connection in college will be in your life forever. At the time, we were still fixated on ensuring that these were the best moments of our lives and, as such, that we were somehow forging lifelong bonds and connections.
I remember now- we were discussing whether or not she should break up with her boyfriend who went to a different school. It was still in the first semester of freshman year, when we thought long-distance relationships were possible. They'd been high school sweethearts. Life still seemed so small but, day by day, we were cracking it open further and further and discovering that the depths and heights were unfathomable. High school boyfriends didn't fit into this ever-expanding world.
We were sitting close enough between the dorms that she had her portable telephone in her lap, waiting for him to call. Through experimentation, we'd discovered that this bench was still close enough to her open window that she could get reception. This was in the days before cell phones, when proximity to a landline was still a vital cog in the social machinery. Especially for long-distance college relationships.
If we sat on this bench, we were halfway between her room and the upperclass dorm. Still within telephone distance of her high school sweetheart but close enough to the future to be straddling both worlds.
It was still warm then, early fall, and humid. It was always humid because the ocean thumped less than thirty miles away and, on the other side of the things, the vast bay created a pocket of moisture-laden air that settled over our small college town and never seemed to dissapate. Our skin felt cool and damp, the bottles chilling our hands, the smoke from her cigarette hanging in the last of the summer swelter in the dark of the evening.
Everything seemed so important. The bricks, the wood of the bench, the shoes I was wearing. Everything seemed vital and necessary.
"Should I break up with him?" she asked. It was a rhetorical question. She wouldn't. And then, one day, years later, she would. And, in the process, discover a pull to women. But, for the time being, it was the most important matter on our plates, and we attacked the problem with a vengeance. We sat on the bench, determined to hammer it out, drinking our way through the six pack of cheap malt liquor and shaking our heads as though this problem hefted with it the weight of the world.