He has always felt like summer to me: the drip of condensation onto a picnic table, going to get a cardigan at 9:00pm at the beach, the imprint of warm toes on a car window in July. In the unwrapping of a barbecued banana and the first white wine spritzer of the season.
We met in autumn, of course, though I was optimistically wearing flip-flops on the first day of term. He had a caramel latte resting on the wooden bench next to him, dark blobs of spilled coffee on his faded jeans. It wasn’t until months later, when the air had cooled, leaves dropped, and grown again, that I felt his summer-ness.
“Let’s go to the pub,” he said to me one afternoon in early March. It was one of those stand-out March days, where it’s not warm, exactly, but no longer bitingly cold, and the sun feels more yellow than white. We sat inside in a patch of sunlight on a dark-wood bench, the seam of his jeans resting against the seam of mine. The sun lit up the dust in the air and it moved like falling pollen. It was 2007 and I felt it then: that afternoon, that week, that month, stretching out in front of me, with this man, making me feel this way.
I felt it again that June. We went to Canon Hill Park. We fed the geese. Our skin smelt of sunshine and sugar. My law exams were done, a job was long-arranged. It was the first day of summer. But, more than that, it was this man, with his easy smile and freckled arms, making me giggle so much I had to roll onto my stomach to catch my breath. It was his enjoyment of me, of us, his pouring me more wine, his languidness as he checked his watch and we decided to be late.
I feel it all the time with MindReader – when watching a movie and his hand rests on my knee and I am supercharged; when he squints up at on oncoming train on our morning commute, and yesterday was another such day. It was the first of March. I, newly 29, was walking up Camden High Street, the sun in my eyes and MindReader’s warm hand in mine.
“Let’s have an ice cream,” he said, pointing to a van ahead. I chose cherry – worryingly pink, full of additives, no doubt. He paid for London Zoo with only a moment’s raised eyebrows – £26! – and we posed to have our photo taken by a guide. “Why is this happening?” he said, which made me snort, and that’s when I felt it again. We rounded the corner, lattes and ice creams in hand, and there was London Zoo in the sunshine, Regent’s Park beyond it, sprawling out in the spring-morning mist. We had the whole day in front of us, there, and then shopping in Covent Garden – maybe we’d stop and eat cake for lunch, the crumbs making our fingers sticky – and then dinner and drinks by the river. We’d stop to take a photo of Tower Bridge at midnight and have a snog. And then next day, too, brunch, to Richmond park to see the deer; wherever we wanted.
“Come on,” he said, reaching for my hand. “Let’s see the gorillas first.”
So we did.