Indian Summer / by Jane Lai

It’s 2 AM on a Saturday morning and the roads have nearly cleared…in the distance, there are trucks with blaring headlights riding along us we make our way across the George Washington bridge back home to the Garden State.

Adam is resting his head gently on my shoulder as I hear his pop punk tunes backpack through my earbuds, which are whispering back a soothing Iron and Wine tune. His half empty box of cheddar Goldfish are sitting snuggly beside his feet. I move towards him and lean my head on top of his. I love him so much. I slip away my copy of A Clockwork Orange in the side slot of the backseat of the vehicle and soon, fall asleep to the whirring of the wheels that greeted the concrete and the blooming rain-etched air of a restlessly impending brew of summer. Adam has been the friend that has treated me with heaps of care and affection and laughter and support–and I will never be able to thank him enough.

When it’s this late at night, it’s as if the universe had flicked the off-switch for society and laced us in its hands…and every glaring fixture and steel bolt planted on the rims of the highway barriers along with each dent and curvature in what seems like a never-ending road, looked so meticulously crafted. It felt like being trapped in a picture that an oil painter had worked on fervently for for decades of his life, yet hadn’t been quite satisfied with. So he nitpicks each and every shadow and edge, trying to change something about his picture, trying to pick out something, anything, that will make him satisfied. And with each precise stroke of the brush, he paints us–the moving vehicle–and the city that houses us intimately under a pitch black sepulcher.

And I think that we are all moving along in an orderly fashion towards out death–but what we feel satisfaction from is our need for affection. To affirm our existence, we crave affection.

There are different types of love in their world like there are different types of ethnicities or countries or shapes of fries. There is romantic love and there is family love and there is friendship love. I think these can be experienced separately, but not all in the same person, but certainly, you are lucky if you experience them all at once, and even luckier if they fall on the long-run side of things. Friendship is one…here is another…

Being with her was a vacation and a reality at the same time. I got a breather from society but I also felt like she was also what reality was composed of–working hard for something that was worth it, at the time.

So everywhere we went became our vacation and our reality. We broke our banks to live together in a slipshod 100 square-foot apartment in New York City…but we were more content despite the rather crowded circumstances. We were pinned down paying for rent that we barely made it paycheck to paycheck. All we could afford at the time were Wendy’s combo meals. And we’d procure just the perfect amount of nickels and pennies and carry them in our ten-year old jean pockets filled with cuts and then a couple grocery bags, to pay for our laundry cycles that we meant to do four months ago.

So we went to do laundry–and with her, that is both a vacation and reality. Laundry isn’t exactly the most exciting of activities, you may think…

It’s 3 in the morning and we’re alone in the building where every color that reflected the walls drenched in a pale, melancholy blue–and we’d dance offbeat to her favorite Taylor Swift track in bright lights and this way, time passed a little more leniently.

And for the coming week, we stocked up the cabinets–loaves of whole wheat bread from Walmart and some tubs in bulk of peanut butter and then some jelly, limited to twice a week if we were feeling a treat. We bought several tubs of strawberry ice cream from Shoprite to make our teeth smile a little more and we snuggled up next to our half-working radiator (you’d have to give it a whack once in a while so it doesn’t overheat itself) and watch the next installment of Breaking Bad.

There is beauty in being penniless, scraping whatever you can to make ends means–as long as you’re surrounded by people you love whom love you. Without the physicality of money, you learn to sacrifice more than just materialism, but selfishness, presumptuousness and hubris.

I think there is something astounding about people who yearn affection. It is absolutely terrifying. You run the risk of everything falling apart…like a clay bomb is latched tenaciously on your forehead and you are the one pushing the button to set it off.

We desire affection because we feel like its worth it, despite the turmoil. We crave it because it is human. I guess it is because it is human nature to empathize for other people’s emotions because it is what we experience.

And I think love is just like dancing. There are two fine dividers. There is yes, dancing. And there is no, dancing. You have to commit your entire self to reap the joys and the short-lived ecstasy of that single moment. See, if you’re standing there, shuffling your feet in small increments and just bobbing your head to the steady beat, you are not really savoring, but rather, you are waiting, like everyone else around you. You are waiting for something better, something that will make you magically flail your arms and legs and cover you in happy sweat and uncontrollable laughter and a heartbeat that keeps up with the movement of your feet. But sometimes, you have to be the one to make yourself dance or you will miss every opportunity to do so. And with love working in its peculiar ways, the outside forces will not come to cordially greet you all the time.

But if I were to pose a hypothetical situation, I believe love is a little like this. It’s when you spill take out over your significant other’s favorite shirt so you start a food fight with them instead, laughing the entire time, and when you’re finished, you lay on the floor together covered in hot sauce and black beans and you just take their face–their perfectly perched lips, complementing their array of various-sized freckles, and you look them right in the eyes in committed intimacy–and kiss them gently and then a little quickly, and then slowly again. You kiss them and you feel the softness of their skin as your trace your fingers towards the back of their right ear, even if they smell funny, like cilantro… and feet because they’ve been in the same socks for 16 hours.

What makes love is so terrifying because we live in a society where we’d rather fill up on snacks and empty calorie soda cans piled high with heaps of saccharin rather than sit down for a complete, home-cooked dinner. In fact, we’d prefer twenty double-stuffed Oreos and a dollop of Ben&Jerry’s, half a can of Barbecue Pringles and then some, to somehow feel as satiated as an Olive Garden 3-course dinner. Cue the popular hobby known as instant gratification.

I want you and I want you now. I want you when I’m drunk or when I’m sober, as long as it’s right now, with no long-term feelings attached. My head is spinning and I’m using you so I can feel better, for tonight. And I want you and your friend and your friend’s friend…I know the difference between love and satisfaction. And right now, I just want satisfaction. You are the 3-day old fried chicken soaked in trans fat that I emptied my wallet for with $13 because I haven’t eaten for the entire day. And I want to pretend that it feels like it’s good. This isn’t love.

Love should be like the gentle hand of Indian summer, perfectly in season, heartwarmingly laid out on the kitchen floor, encapsulating every detail and flaw of the person you love– because suddenly, everything becomes beautiful. Each new day spent with this person becomes an experience to illustrate on a blank canvas, and strapped tightly in the backseat is you–ready to be blown away.


Jane Lai is a 19 year-old sophomore studying English Literature and Journalism at Monmouth University. Her writing interests lie primarily in intertwining classical literature with modern day ideals, although she does pounce around emotional and ambient  topics once in a while. She is en route to publishing her first novel in December 2016 titles 'Saccharin,' which analyses 1960s counterculture, juxtaposing it to 2016 societal values.