Love in the Time of Summer

Madbuzzhk writer Raymond Lee opens up about love and growing up.
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Love in the Time of Summer

One of my best friends, Xiao Lu, used to joke to me back in year ten that couples came together in winter time, mostly ‘because the frosty spells of winter creates a desideratum for cuddling.’ Many years have past since that joke was first uttered, and I beg to differ. I strongly believe that love in summer time is the greatest, if only due to the symbolic importance for our teenage selves.

Of all my fondest memories, I believe the best ones almost always involved my first girlfriend, Chloe, whom I had a relationship with during my adolescence. Adolescent romances are always the best, simply because  you have the time to explore what you define to be ‘romance.’ I am now twenty, and the opportunities for such luxuries has fled me long ago. Every day, I stare back into the abyss of my past, observing the blurry mirages of memories fleeing before my very eyes; I gaze nostalgically in between instance after instance, moment after moment.

I first met Chloe in 2009. I was fifteen then, young and innocent, filled to the brim with stubbornness and ignorance. She had just transferred to my school then, and somehow we bonded quickly. Our interactions became much more physical, and in a year’s time, we became one.

If life has taught me anything, it is that the world runs at a relationship of diverging equity between all its pain and beauty. For example, during your adolescence, absent a guide or judge, you have to trudge through the waters of romance yourself, discovering the consequences of everything you do without a manual or guidebook. Should you kiss at this instance; does it feel right? Is your body ready for sexual intercourse? How do you balance your life with your partner and your social life?  The simple decision to reject your partner a kiss could make or break your relationship.

But the freedom of choice is perhaps also part of the beauty of adolescent romance. The absence of some standard allows us to make choices that are of our own, and sometimes ignore that despicable thing that we call ‘social decorum.’ I still remember the many times I would chase Chloe across the school corridors, not long before pinning her down, dragging her to the closest bench and tickling before she begged for mercy; or the time I kneeled to tie my shoe laces, only to have her sit on my back, riding me like an elephant. We did all that in public every day, without a single consideration for the world before us and its awful rules.

That was before we even came together.

I am now twenty, and every day, I stare back into the abyss of my past, jealous of the carefree environment in which I prospered and roamed. I have a new girlfriend now, whose passions run far less free than that of Chloe’s. Every time we walk together, we are careful of stepping beyond the boundaries of social decorum. We avoid kissing in public, nor do we engage in anything that would attract the sweeping eyes of the public. We still actively engage the community, because society never allows for any couple to fall out of its circuit and consigns itself into self-imposed exile. We still need friends and we often sacrifice time to see them, as well as completing other important businesses.

Perhaps the other beauty of adolescent romances is the commitment you are able to put forth. I still remember seeing Chloe almost every hour of the day during the last few years of high school. I would wake up at 6:00, jump on the train from Tai Po to Mong Kok East, then patiently wait for her to come to the station at around 7:45, before heading to school together. We would hold hands during Chinese class; and during the classes where we were separated, we would continue the conversation on Skype. At the end of the day, I would accompany her home, before heading back home myself at around 18:00, sustaining earlier conversations about what to do during the weekend.

I am now twenty, and every day, I stare back into the abyss of my past, wondering where the seconds of my free time have fled. It is summer of 2014, and I see my current girlfriend once a week at best. When we meet, there is not much to do other than a brief dinner and a brief walk. We rarely sustain conversations, and when we do, they are usually brief or involve matters of a more serious nature. I miss her, but I have also accepted my new way of life.

Sometimes, the nostalgia kills me. It was May when my girlfriend and I were visiting Hyde Park, gazing lazily across the vast green horizon as the sun hid shyly behind the clouds. We had only been together for two weeks, but due to exams and essays, we had not commemorated our union. That afternoon served as our first date. Emotions were raw, and I was scared. Beyond worries of ‘how do I please her,’ I was also imagining my exams, reciting my notes as I replied absently to her queries about how we would proceed with our relationship. 

We came to the edge of the park and sat down. She gently lay her head against my lap, and we talked for two hours. For a fleeting moment, in my dreariness, I heard Chloe’s voice speaking to me. The wind gently touched my cheeks, wiping the grass back and forth with its lee. I sat still, my arms around my girlfriend’s head. All is quiet, and for a moment, I thought I had all the time in the world — no more exams, no more responsibility, no more worrying about future careers. I closed my eyes and took many deep breaths. My girlfriend uses a different shampoo, but I could clearly sense the lingering scent of Chloe’s wet hair, just like the old days when she would rush to Mong Kok East Station after her morning shower. I stroked her hair gently, mesmerised in the subtle elation aroused in my mind, for I was in a perfect world — not because that Chloe had returned to me or that my fondest memories had come back gushing through my brain — but that I felt like an adolescent in summer, bathed in love once more, just for another hour.

*all names in this article have been modified.

Featured image retrieved from mrwallpaper/

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