Faulty Lullaby

Once, before you, I was young.

I used to make your mistakes and drink too much. I was scared of becoming my mother, just like you're now scared of becoming me. I hid boyfriends from my parents and thought they'd never understand me.

One day, you too, will be old.

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1. Me before you

Just pulling together a few bits and piece rotting on my laptop. Will be a couple of chapters but not very long. Might be a bit bitty... I just wanted to do something with the nicer sounding ones :) 

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Before you were born

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Of all the summers, it was the one I’d pick out as the most remarkable. I was both most and least like myself so that, in looking at my life, those few weeks seemed almost florescent. They glowed in the midst of the dusty years before and after, highlighted and holding the promise of optimism and the future; those were the days of our lives.

 

We went backpacking across Europe. Me and those friends I never thought I’d lose. We went to Prague and sweated in the heat; trekked across Budapest in the middle of the night and sat eating shit food in some dodgy café in Berlin. At the time, everything was accessible and doable; you could begin the day in Germany and end in Poland, or Austria, or somewhere exotic and different like Croatia. The whole of Europe was in reach and, with it, the world felt small and we felt bigger. There was such an air of adventure and possibilities in the days.

 

It felt possible to do anything or see anything.

 

I liked best the days we camped. I like the idea of being a snail, carrying everything we needed on our backs (for short distances, with lots of breaks, but we carried them all the same), and unpacking our whole lives onto a tent pitch. With hindsight, the notion was silly; we had mobile phones with digital maps, cash cards with access and much more technology than it was possible to carry. We weren’t snails at all, nor the nomads it was easy to believe ourselves, but privileged tourists with youth and money on our sides. Our memories were preserved through the lenses of cameras, still images of moments full of life.

 

We camped by the edge of Lake Garda, a meter or two away from the shore. I remember sitting on a bench and looking out over the lake, the imprint of the mountains on the other side and echoes of the other mountains – the ones at the furthest point away – visible with just a little imagination.  We sat by the lake, in the dying light, and listened to county music and American families; dancing ankle deep in the lake with plastic cups of discount alcohol, grinning and laughing and so unflappably young.

 

We believed that songs might be written about us, that we walked out of holiday catalogues, and our memories might be preserved forever in books or newspaper articles; back then, our clogged up thoughts seemed worth something, our opinions significant, our experiences unique. I was impressed by the idea that, of all the people in the world, no one in the world had ever felt the perfection of that moment, or the purity of that happiness.

 

I remembered days we sat and drank slightly warm wine, buzzed up on good food and hints of alcohol, laughing until we couldn’t breathe. We talked about sex and books and being young. We talked about what made us ourselves and how we’d tell our children these stories one day. I was never scared of death, back then, because I felt fulfilled, rather than the nagging knowledge of a catalogue of wasted days. The future was the promise of something good, hints of new, exciting things that would come in time. I wasn’t impatient, for those few weeks, but so blissfully content with the present in a way that it is difficult to explain.

 

We skinny dipped and made friends with strangers, skipped meals to save money and pissed off the neighbours. We drank and ate and wore our underwear twice because we’d ran out of clean clothes. We stayed up all night, some nights, and slept in train stations in others. We were free; tied down only by our tight finances and the sparse bookings we’d made.

 

We were so alive, yet the days passed in a mirage of a dream, resonances of stolen minutes between revision when we mapped ourselves across Europe with the same wistful disbelief that all dreams hold.  Never quite believing in the reality of this freedom, this present, which was every bit as wonderful as our plans had thought it.

 

I met a boy in Amsterdam. Back then,  I was just growing out of my insecurities and beginning to believe myself – if not attractive, but desirable to the right customer – and we were stoned, drunk, and passing a spliff back and forward in an easy rhythm. My friends were laughing; their smiles mixing with the sweet smoke, as reality seem intangible and distant. I can still remember his lips on my neck, the smell of his aftershave, the words he delivered without ever realising their profound effect on me.

 

One day, baby, we’ll be old.

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