Summer 1955 – Cape Cod

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Mary Benoist

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Peter had gotten into the habit of going by the beach to reach Suzy’s house; it was quicker that way.
A little further on, behind the dunes, were a few houses. Suzy’s was the one painted blue, with the white windows and the private jetty extending into the sea.

Today he was in no hurry. He no longer felt the enthusiasm he used to at the idea of seeing the friends he met up with each summer for so long. Most of the spoiled kids from the beautiful houses of Cape Cod had known each other from childhood.

He was bored at the thought of what awaited him: laughter, alcohol, Miles Davis or Coltrane in the background, excited discussions that were not exciting, boys larking about and girls laughing, arguments and betrayals, friendship alliances and declarations of love that would be forgotten the next day. Every night the same in that summer of 1955.

He was in no hurry to join them. He walked barefoot through the little waves. The wind had dropped. The water was warm, like it often is at the end of summer.

Since that morning, he hadn’t been able to shake off a feeling of bitterness. But right now it was dread that engulfed him, a surge of unhappiness which took hold of him and churned his stomach. He stopped, out of breath.
He wondered about this emotional pain he had never felt before.. It must be boredom, that was it, boredom, or even disgust with himself and other people—that was surely what was the matter with him.

He looked out at the sea, almost motionless beneath the moon, and went forward into it. The water soon came up to his waist. He felt good, like when he was in his mother’s womb. Or at least as he imagined it had been.

His pain ebbed away. The water now up to his shoulders, he kept going. It was so easy. He felt calm. Dying. Can you kill yourself when you are nineteen years old and just one hour earlier you had never given it a thought? The taste of the salty water in his throat frightened him. He waded back to the beach.

When he arrived at Suzy’s house, soaked to the skin, he would make up a story. He would say he wanted to wade out the sandbar, so close to shore that day. They would laugh and make jokes. A girl would take him into the bathroom and something might happen.

Then, later, he would join them and drink, a lot. That way, it would be easier to go all the way, past the sandbar, up over his shoulders and under.

That was what he told himself, tears pricking his eyes.

Or perhaps, too weary, he would just fall asleep, as he often did. But not in Suzy’s arms. He was sure of that. It had been over with her since yesterday.

Translated by Wendy Cross

117

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