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The Color of Summer

by Gina Yang


Four days prior, Mars was in Aries. This meant, according to magazine columnists who would know, that desires should be acted upon immediately, because Aries energy is impulsive and restless. I was glad to hear this, because I had in that week acted somewhat impulsively.

It was the first week of June and I was in my socialite era. Long, expensive dinners with friends, evenings at the opera, Broadway musicals, readings at the Whitney. I had given notice at my job and could focus on distracting myself. Fortunately, I was about to leave for a holiday in Italy.

***

Rome was so hot it felt like I was dying. I might have been—from jet lag or illness—it was still ambiguous which I was experiencing. My throat was sore, my glands swollen, and there was an ache behind my eyes. These were the symptoms to watch out for, but they were also how my fatigue manifested itself in those days.

My mother took me to Borsalino and I bought myself a hat. It was painfully chic and cooled me off considerably, though it did nothing for my general condition. That could only be cured by a lie down, which could only happen after lunch. So I sat in that big mall on Via del Corso, sipping an acqua frizzante, trying my best not to be a vessel of disease, while my parents took care of some business across the street.

Every woman passing by wore a sundress. Some were better than others. The worst ones were too short, like dresses made for toddlers. The ones I envied were longer, made of linen or eyelet. The color of the summer was bubblegum pink.

***

As it turned out, it wasn’t jet lag that had given me chills. Of course, this was how it always happened.

***

I recovered in Venice, and then we went to San Felice Circeo. The resort was gorgeous, all bougainvillea and white stucco and turquoise water. I swam alone in the grotto each day. Being there made me sure that I had made a mistake. My mind ran in an endless, pointless loop, fantasizing about showing this place to a person with whom I was no longer on speaking terms. I wanted more than anything to see him swim, and to know that he could save my life if I began to drown.

To make matters worse, I looked more beautiful than ever. I had gotten a tan, and a slight burn down my nose and across my left thigh. My hair was long and loose and soft from swimming in the sea.

Butterflies had taken over the resort and its surrounding areas. But to the dismay of the resort owner and guests alike, they were not a pretty species. They were dusty brown, like moths, and boldly accosted us all, flying into our faces and hair and flapping their wings unsettlingly on the backs of our necks. They crowded the outdoor dining table, brushing over the pasta and buffalo mozzarella to swarm around the prosciutto and melon. They would be gone within a week, we were told. We were returning to Rome sooner than that.

***

I spent the last two days shopping. I returned with my suitcases full of linen clothes in shades of ivory and cantaloupe, summer sandals to match, Sermoneta gloves, a sable coat, birthday gifts for my Gemini and Cancer friends, and the Diptyque taper candles that were sold out everywhere.

***

Back in New York, everything was fine. I took yellow cabs everywhere I went. I hailed them on the street, which I was told few people did anymore. It had become a novelty. But it was the cheapest and easiest way to take a car, if you were in Manhattan.

Still, I couldn’t shake a feeling of uncertainty. My daily horoscope reminded me that life was long and nothing was guaranteed, which meant things could always turn out in my favor. I searched for flights to Seoul, to Auckland, to LA. Fuel prices were high. The market was down. The housing bubble was due to burst any second. Overall, a sad state of affairs.

Parents, pundits, and even friends were saying to wait, wait, wait. It was good advice. I clicked. I scrolled. I hit refresh.

***

In certain circumstances, I’m not entirely above begging. When he wouldn’t take me back, I reasoned and argued and pleaded into the phone for a full hour. Later I would say, quite sincerely, “At least I gave it my all.”

***

At this point in the season, the heat was cloying and muggy. Stepping outside felt like putting on a sweater. The air in the apartment was kept cool and crisp by newly-installed AC units that ran liberally. Peaches, plums, cherries lay chilled in the fridge. But outside the weather was inevitable, all-encompassing, and frozen margaritas and Aperol drinks sweated sprawling puddles onto tables outside.

Over a month had passed since Mars was in Aries. I realized I had been wrong.

The color of the summer was orange, not pink.

***

A group of friends took the ferry to the beach and spent a day in the sun. We drank cold beers and mixed warm rum with cream soda. We ran through the waves until our feet no longer touched the sand and we were rocked up and down like children. I laughed and screamed and got so much water in my mouth and nose that I claimed to be drowning, but I wasn’t.


Gina Yang lives in New York City. She can be found on Twitter @jeanhole_.

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