The sun is shining, beach waves are touching people’s feet and some of them are surfing through the water with joy. And that’s how it’s meant to be, isn’t it? Elena, 20 years old, thought to herself while watching these beach vacation Instagram stories. It’s 2 am in her small town and she’s lying on the bed in a black crop top paired with blue shorts & her brown hair is spreading on the pillow.
A thought that would never leave her mind at night, is it the beach vibes or do people themselves feel so enthusiastic all the time? It’s confusing for someone who has seen and heard too many, “social media is fake narratives”, to believe that people are always this inspired out there.
Tired of those recurring anxious thoughts, she finds distraction in her favourite summer dress with yellow-white flowers and It’s flair going down from the waist and finishing above her knees. Apart from dressing up, one more happy moment of every night is putting on fancy shoes and dancing it out for half an hour to one hour before drowning herself in some dreams.
These days, dreams didn’t agree so much with Elena and most nights she would end up dreaming about her father and herself walking into an amusement park together. They would enjoy the rides but in the end, he would disappear into a dark abyss.And this is how she would wake up from her sleep.
Her father’s death (6 months ago) was a recurring and bothersome thought for Ella (that’s what he used to call her). While every day was the same, even in college something always seemed missing. Almost like she lost the sunshine, she didn’t notice any flowers and just simply walked past the beautiful skyline.
Elena, despite being the younger one, took on more responsibility at home. She understood the circumstances, the protocols and the practical responses expected off of her at home. While every day at home used to be challenging before as well, she would get by with her dad always joking around and encouraging her to make more friends in town.
Thanks to him, today she had quite a few friends, Charlie and Maria being the closest to her. While she would rarely invite them home, Elena would often stay over at their place. But now she stopped and preferred staying at home reading books.
Last week, she wrote something on a post-it and stuck to a book that was a gift from her Dad. The post-it said – “A reminder of you that will always be close to me”, that book talked about things Ella admired, felt but never truly understood.
On Friday night, her friends insisted that they went to a party together, get distracted and end up dancing or having fun. After due consideration, she accepted. On Friday, as they entered the house, they were surprised by how big and classy it was. An outdoor pool, chandelier, a bar, fancy liquor and too many bedrooms to count.
At first, Ella was having fun with her friends, drinking and dancing together. Later, she got quite tired, went inside the house and found herself staring at the bookshelf. From Ernest Hemingway, Charles Bukowski to Kushwant Singh, that shelf had so many books that one could spend the whole night sitting and reading. What was odd, however, was this man who looked 30 years old and was standing by the shelf holding a book in a party full of college kids. Curious about the man, she said hello. He greeted and asked if she wished to sit down. They sat on the chairs beside the bookshelf, Robert introduced himself and explained that he lived next door, heard about the party, dropped by to pick up some interesting anecdotes but ended up taking a tour of the house and was drinking beer.
Have you found any good anecdotes yet? Elena asked. Some, but not enough, however, what’s your story? He asked. Hesitant to answer, she asked him what he did for a living? I’m a writer, he said. Surprised by his response, she asked if there was anything he had written that Elena may have read?
It’s not popular yet but soon enough something off the charts will be a pick up for everyone. So, what’s your story?
Just a college student living life to the fullest, partying in a big house and talking to a writer by the bookshelf. Isn’t it great? He was amused by her sarcasm which was a defence mechanism. So, he asked again.
You want to know the story for your next book, right? She smirked while replying. Who’s to say your story will even be that fascinating? He grinned. Fair point, she said.
I live close by, came here with my best friends, not liking the party but I like dancing, my nickname is Ella (at least what my dad used to call me) and I am here to take a break from my dad being dead. Good enough of an answer for you? She said in anger.
Taken aback by her response, he offered her a packet of chips and after apologizing, posed the question – how did he die, if I may ask? Typical, a car accident 6 months ago, she replied.
So you’re trying to get past it and finding more cheerful things to do, right? No, just taking a break from thinking about it. Is it working? Not really.I have an interesting question, he said, how do you take care of yourself everyday?
Wow, that’s more like a boring philosophical question than an interesting one. Okay, I’ll ask it differently; what season is it right now? Autumn, she replied.
So, are you falling like the leaves since it’s September and Autumn? No, what sort of question is that she laughed. Okay, so you’re not seasonal like leaves, we’ve established that. What do you think about Summer, what is that season like?
It’s about the sunshine, people going to the beach, surfing, cold summer drinks, ice cream and for some reason sunflowers. Is that what you do in summers? He asked. No, I’ve never been to the beach, not fond of the sun, ice cream and certainly not sunflowers.
He now rephrases his question and asks, you’re not seasonal, you don’t fall like the leaves but also don’t like flowers in spring or ice cream in summers. So how do you take care of yourself? Nature takes care of itself in a seasonal way, how do you do it?
Astonished and speechless, she tries to speak, I read books at times, listen to music, try new clothes and dance in my room. Do they make you think more about your dad in a happy way? At first but then I miss all of them. I used to tell him about the books I read, show him new clothes and even my weird dance moves.
So, you’ve made what was once your summer as autumn, winter and also spring. You fall as you miss him, you get cold when you talk about him dying and spring when you think about those memories.
It’s interesting how you’re with your best friends, but you don’t want to dance with them, you’re sitting with a writer but you haven’t talked about any books you’ve liked or read and neither did you smile even though you’re facing a mirror and are sitting in a pretty dress.
She asks him, how is a writer talking about being more cheerful and not about turning my pain into a story? You can write it when you know the means and ways to get past it. You can
write forever, but you can’t live in pain forever. Don’t drown, find new summer moments each day.
Your dad will always be in your memory, but you have to create new moments for yourself. To feel all the seasons every month, metaphorically.
As Elena went deep in thought and overwhelmed, Robert went downstairs to grab another beer.
After returning home from the party, Ella thought about what the writer had said for weeks. She took a step, started small and joined a book club to talk about the books she would read. Dresses remain her thing to do but joining a dance class was the next move.
One by one, while every day she would think of her dad, she would also remember her happiness in those moments. So, while she had her sad/dull days, she would also create joyous ones.
Sunflowers may still be a far-fetched dream but gypsophila had come close to growing in the garden. Ella still fears if she would lose her ability to create better days but she continues to believe in her idea of having lived a “Summer in September.”
Written by Namrata Satija