The First Days

Joshua Peralta

Joshua Peralta

We moved in together the day after the first day of summer. We carried box after box up our stairs and stacked them against the bare walls of our new old apartment. We set to making the place ours, filling empty closets with clothes, filling shelves with books and knickknacks, mingling the yours and the mine.

I remember the slow process of unpacking. One-by-one, delicately as an archaeologist delivering mysteries from the earth, you lifted items from your boxes and reflected. I remember you unwrapping a replica of Degas’ Little Dancer, which your father gave you before he left. Your fingers worked at the newspaper bandages while you told how she came by her chipped chin. Box by box for a week, we shared the intimate histories of our stuff.

I remember the incredible ease of Sunday mornings we didn’t work, the crisp symmetry of waffles forked from my mother’s old waffle iron, battered yet dutiful after decades of breakfast. I remember great talavera mugs of fresh dark coffee.

I remember fireworks blooming over the harbor in sparkling cyan, lemon white, and kiss red. Their explosions lit the sky around us, flashing down into the streets and alleys and illuminating the beach below the cliffs. I remember we sat and watched from our balcony, mouths agape, gasping like kids with each bright burst.

I remember coming home from work early one evening on a warm Saturday in late July. I tip-toed up the stairs, hoping to sneak up on you. Instead, I found you sprawled in the middle of the big living room, asleep in the drowsing light of day, your cat snuggling beside you. The cat yawned and slunk over to me, and she and I decided to leave you napping. A little while later, you woke to a purpling sky at the pop of a cork. I heard you rise and wander toward the sound, calling my name like a question mark. You found me with the cat in my lap on the balcony reading from a book of stories, waiting for you with two cups of red wine and a head full of fine ideas about what to do with such a delicious night.

I remember the smothering heat of August and the utter incompetence of ceiling fans. I remember throwing open every window in our apartment, heaping curses on the heads of our landlords, on the crazy hearts of our lunatic neighbors, on the mosquitoes that buzzed in our ears and fattened themselves on our blood. These sleepless nights, we sweated in bed next to each other beneath a thin cotton sheet, talking softly in the dark about a thousand things, about how certain we were of being different from everyone and everything else around us.

I remember the breeze that rescued us each night for a week in September. It blew in from Catalina, over the breakwater, and swept up the few short blocks from the harbor. It whispered through the plants we’d potted on the balcony as it wound its way into our living room.

I remember the eucalyptus outside our kitchen window swaying in the twilight. I remember the surprise of its million pink blossoms, which arrived one morning and stuck around for a month, maybe more.

I remember the first meal cooked on our new old stove. How gingerly we prepared it, the two of us dancing clumsily around each other with a wooden spoon and steaming colander. I remember the scent of basil pungent on our fingertips, and burning bread before breaking it.

And I remember dessert. Tart mango sorbet thawing on the counter as our bodies pressed into one another against the fridge. I remember the thrub of our fingers as they pushed through a white sea of tiny magnets, parting clusters of silly poems left by friends and spilling them onto the floor. I remember afterward, collapsed in our little kitchen, our backs against the cool surface of lacquered cabinetry, the flesh of our bottoms like cushions on the new linoleum. The way we grinned under heavy eyelids as we picked up the fallen words: simple, with, vision, matter, almost, under, orange, time, euphony.

Even now, I remember the sound of your voice when you asked me what that word meant. Euphony. You said you’d never heard it before. I said I was sure you had. You asked again what it meant, and I asked you to repeat yourself, begged you to just continue speaking to me. I wanted so much to make you understand the word the way I understood it. But when you asked a third, then a fourth time, the lilt in your voice had left. And so I told you what I knew—that it was something like harmony. Which reminded you of a tiny town on the central coast we pulled into once. And with a laugh bright as a ring of keys tossed into the air you drifted back there. Back to the memory of a fat white Maine Coon curled behind a window in the creamery, back to the charm of an old red truck rusting like a dream drowning in tall grass. As you spoke this shared memory, something captivating returned to your voice. I can hear it now, still ringing in my ears. I remember euphony.

3 Comments

  1. The details. The details are important, aren’t they? I think so. Thank you for the reminder, and for this beautiful piece, Josh.

    Cheers old friend.

  2. Beautiful! Love the language and images spring to life. A beautiful story about two young lovers, yet the sadness, the longing comes through too. Nicely done!

  3. Memories might be bitter-sweet or fond memories of who we are and those people who helped shaped us. This seems a bit of both. Indeed lovely and thoughtfully written.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *