A walk in the fresh air of childhood.

On a sunny day when the air had already begun to smell of autumn, I met someone and this encounter brought back an entire surge of memories of my childhood which I delved into as I walked along the cobblestone streets.

The days of my childhood are held dear in my memory. Growing up I was hardly ever deprived of anything, however I could not say that I was spoilt. My childhood can be found in a post-Soviet country and it passed without a glitch. My family, consisting of my parents, my brother and me as well as my grandmother who was always around, was loving and sensible. From a young age I was taught to carry myself in a refined way and not do anything improper. This was largely due to my mother, who was a firm believer in a clear etiquette and lady-like manners, which she undoubtedly passed on to me.

We had an apartment in the city and a house in the countryside. The longer part of the year was spent in the city, where I attended kindergarten and the summer was spent in the countryside. My memories are largely limited to the countryside, because that was the place which I adored beyond reason. I lived there with my grandmother and delighted in every minute of it. Our neighbours, who lived in the house right next to ours, lived there permanently and that was all the more exciting, because they grew their own crops, had cows, pigs and chickens and to me seemed entirely carefree and wonderful. Even though my grandmother tried her best to grow strawberries, carrots, cabbage, in other words partake in the countryside way of life, I always found the neighbours more exciting and would help them in their tasks, whether it was picking off beetles from potato plants, cleaning their barn or stacking up firewood beside their house. This simplicity charmed me and I was always sad to return to the city, where I would find myself either in kindergarten or school with my peers, who for the most part found this way of life boring or even unpleasant.

So my years were spent alternating between the city and the countryside and I learned to appreciate both ways of life. On rainy days in the countryside I would act out the most absurd scenarios, usually scenes I had directly remembered from the soap operas, which were constantly broadcasted on television, and I would read. Whether it was comic books or fairy tales, it would bring me great pleasure, because there I would find the excitement which I sometimes felt my life, quite unfairly, lacked. I would also listen to Joe Dassin and Mozart’s operas and let the music carry my dreamy mind away. Everything in life seemed beautiful and there was nothing that could make me sad.

Quite funnily the only moments I remember where I was sad, were when I was already in bed in our apartment in the city and my mother would put on remotely depressing songs from the eighties and drink red wine whilst listening to them in her own little world. Then I would lie in bed and cry silent tears thinking that one day I would grow up and be separated from my parents and my brother, who would go to university. University to me meant that he would entirely disappear from my life. At that time I did not know that my mother was also listening to these songs because she was unhappy and unsatisfied with the cramped little life we led. It was by no means uncomfortable, but it was not the grandeur she had dreamt of when she herself had been a child.

For the most part my childhood was rather monotonous, with a few trips throughout Europe thrown in. It was lovely though and I would not change any part of it, but for the purpose of understanding the events of present day, I need to explain the story between me and the boy I encountered.

In the countryside the neighbours we had were a family of five; mother, father, a girl and her two younger brothers. One of them was almost the same age as me and although no one in the countryside discriminated and we all played together, I was the closest with this boy. I did not consider myself as particularly feminine, mostly because I used to wear my brother’s old clothes and had no concern for my appearance when I was in the countryside. That was the only place where I was permitted to look and act like that. We used to spend endless hours riding bicycles together, playing games, and going to the local store, which always seemed to be entertaining. There was never any insinuation that we were anything more than friends.

I used to look forward to seeing him every summer and we always had a great time together. As his younger brother grew up, we included him more into our friendship, but it was still our unique bond which mattered to me. Then when I was eight or nine during one my summers there I suddenly noticed a change. The change was in me, perhaps he too felt differently, if he did he never said so at the time, only years later he admitted that at some point he had liked me. He had dark hair and dark brown eyes. I don’t know what it was about him that I found so attractive, but I would blush inwardly every time he would look at me. I spent the entire summer wishing to spend even more time with him. I would go to his house constantly and persuade him to ride our bikes or come out to play.

One evening stands out among the rest. We were both tired due to the hot summer’s day and our bike ride, and found ourselves sitting on the bench facing my house. My grandmother had just called out to me to tell me to come inside as it was already dark, and I was making those last few moments last. It was a truly pleasant summer’s evening with warm air and smell of sweet flowers everywhere, or perhaps I just imagined these elements later on. I was determined to tell him how I felt, because I thought he would respond with the same sentiment, but just before I said anything, he affirmed, I don’t remember in what words, our friendship, and I felt as if anything I would now say about my affection for him would be inappropriate and he would dislike me for it. So it remained unsaid and my first romance became doomed.

Life settled this for me as my family no longer spent entire summers in the countryside, so we grew apart and now I had not heard from him in years, so even strong bonds such as this can come to an end if they are destined to. Only once, when I went to the countryside for a week when I was sixteen, we found ourselves playing truth or dare, and somehow in the most obscure way, he told me that he had liked me back in the day. Now this meeting in the street where we exchanged a few trivial phrases seemed almost meaningless.

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