FICTION: SUMMER – Jennifer Cerna



The sun, in its descent, turned green leaves a bright gold. Small flecks of dust in the air reflected that same light, falling onto the houseplants and the hardwood floor. The air was hot and still. The fan, broken, sat guilty in the corner of the room. Cicadas screamed from every tree in the mountain behind the house.

Sam twisted in her chair, popping her back. When the sun goes down, I’ll run, she thought to herself. She looked out at the hazy peninsula that she called home. She did not want to run.

Children screamed and laughed outside. Yet inside the apartment, there was a quiet tranquility accompanied with piano songs in minor. Sam sat in her faded chair, thinking about how her mood seemed to reflect her life: solitary and quiet, a bit detached.

She thought about home. How the peninsula haze carried with it the smell of home: a landlocked, flat nowhere. She remembered her childhood, also solitary, quiet, and detached. Birds in the distance cried out.

How time flies! It had been twelve years since she first experienced this smell. The distant memories of her childhood seemed closer here than anywhere else, even though she had never lived here as a child.

In one year, Sam would have to return home. Why, she did not know. All she knew was that she couldn’t be on this peninsula for more than one more year. So she had set the date that her work contract would end and spent her free time at home, sitting in her faded chair, reflecting on her past and thinking about her future.

She wished she could stop time. This was why she ran so much. Even when cars drove by, the sun sets, and house lights flicker on and off, time never seemed to pass as long as her feet kept hitting the pavement in rhythmic motion. Action cut through a frozen time before it resumed again.

The sun would not set for another hour and a half, but running would be tolerable in less than an hour. Sam shifted in her chair, bits of lint sticking to the backs of her thighs. She thought about Ella, the girl she fell in love with the moment she laid eyes on her in a college drawing class. She had a few interactions with her, but mostly, she only saw her walking around campus.

The night before, while scrolling through her social media feed, Sam saw that Ella was in a relationship with another woman, a surprise to her! She had spent all four years of college lusting after a straight woman only to find out that had she been brave enough, she could have had a chance with her. How sad, Sam thought. She would probably never see Ella again except on her social media “Friends” list.

The sun tucked itself behind the high mountains, though still some ways above the horizon set by the ocean. Sam stood. It was time to stretch.

Sam collapsed on the floor in a heap next to her bed. The run had been nothing special, but she felt exhausted. She stared at the space under her bed and watched as a spider crawled aimlessly. The sun had dipped below the horizon a while ago but still illuminated the sky a deep, but bright blue. The families in the houses close to Sam had already begun preparing for their evening meals.

The smell of fried chicken, teriyaki sauce, and freshly cooked rice wafted through the screen doors. Sam lay on her back with her head towards the screen door, staring at the remnants of light left in the sky, breathing in a mix of her incense and the smell other people’s dinners.

 Hungry as she was, the only food she had in her house for the next week was rice and eggs. She thought about Ella again and let her heart flutter at her memories of her freckles, eyes, and lips.

Ella was a mystery of beauty. She had shoulder-length, dark chestnut-colored hair that stayed shiny all year round. Her eyebrows were rather standard, but provided a good frame for her pale blue-green eyes. Her lips were always a darker red, as though she had been chewing on them. Even when she smiled, her eyes cast a shadow of faint and constant anger over her face. She was of average height, but her body gave the impression of being long and lean. Her style was always effortlessly and unexpectedly cool.

Sam sighed. Her chances of attracting someone like that wouldn’t change based on their sexual orientation. It would always be zero. She thought about herself, slightly shorter than the average woman, not curvy, and not thin: just kind of a blob somewhere in between. Her hairs was dark and frizzed most of the time, unable to decide unanimously if they wanted to be curly or straight, regardless of the humidity. Her skin was too tanned and her style never seemed to suit her body type. In her own mind, she was quite brutish and lacked grace. Even when running, the single thing she felt good at, her own feet kicked her legs.

Morning came and the birds outside screamed tirelessly as if competing with the cicadas. The sun had risen, but it was not six o’clock yet. Sam’s eyelids drifted open. She sighed. Another day, just like the rest. The only special thing was that it was one day closer to her last day on this island.

Two hours later, Sam was at work, sitting at her desk. The windows were open, and the air conditioner was off. The heavy heat gripped her neck and made her clothes feel like they were made of fleece. She thought about the invisibility that she felt constantly enshrouded in, even at work. She listened to her coworkers speak to each other, sometimes laughing, but often left at the end of the day not having spoken a word.

Once finally home, Sam stripped to her undershirt and thin shorts and settled herself once again in her chair, like she has done for the past three months. Like she will do for the next eleven and three weeks. She thought about Ella again, a topic of the past. She “Liked” the picture of Ella and her new girlfriend, though it felt insincere. She imagined herself putting Ella in a box, closing it, and pushing it into a dark corner, where she kept other memories and thoughts that she dwelled on occasionally.

She sat in the chair, watching the dust fall and the sun change its position, thinking about some obscure thing of the past or fantasy of the future until it was time to drag herself out for a run again.

So it went for the next eleven months and three weeks.


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