The first time I met the girl who started a revolution the sky was throwing down so much rain it felt like we were underwater. It was hard to breathe; and maybe that was because of all the rain, but probably it was because I looked at her face, under this dark red hood, and inside I was a story with all these feelings I could never say. I guess those feelings could only ever become words on paper - words in ink - not the kind I could ever speak aloud to anybody, if only because I couldn't bear for a person to see the look on my face while I remembered. Despite how good it felt - so hopeful, so desperately happy for what it was and could become - at the same time it was drowning in this sea, like the sky that day, for the way that everything else wasn't. And I said, what's your name?
At first we called her August when I brought her back to Jack's flat, which his parents paid for mostly, and which we used for getting high, mostly. She curled up in the armchair and rarely left it from there. Jack said hi and she said, hi, and we spoke until her smile was the only light in the room.
August seemed more intricate then than she does now; maybe because she was a step ahead of me somehow, in the way she saw her world - knowing already how to speak the words I always felt were trapped inside me, as emotions I couldn't match to language.
That first night I remember a snatch of conversation that struck me. Even then I thought it would be something I would not forget; not for a life-changing reason, not even a faintly important one; for some reason it triggered a light feeling in my stomach, something that reminded me of my earliest memories.
I used to wake up early in the mornings and look out my window at the sun rising. It was a huge ball of orange, and I had this thought that the sun was crawling, half-asleep, up the side of the world to get into the sky. In winter, when there was dozens of water droplets cooled on the glass, I would hold up my hands to watch the light go through the condensation and turn them dappled gold. Just doing that gave me this shiver, some kind of shaking emotion, like falling backwards standing up.
It's the kind of thing that goes without words or telling anybody, but I could try and tell you: it was as simple as peace.
That feeling was rare back then, but when I met August, it was something that was only nostalgia. That first night, she brought it back to me - even as she was a girl that was anything but simple – in this memory, this conversation.
It was nearly the end of the night we stayed up together. Our thoughts were slurred with sleep and smoke, and Jack was saying, Everybody says things at me. Not with me, but at me. You know?
And I said, huh?
He went on, I don't get where people are coming from anymore. Who anybody is.
August said, I think we get too wrapped up in saying 'look at me, and who I am.' Nobody ever says, just, 'listen. Do you ever feel like me?'
Jack laughed, looking all bleary-eyed, and said yeah, yeah, that's what I mean. It's all what and no why.
I said, maybe people don't care about the whys.
And August said, when you're a kid you always care why. You have to explain why you didn't do your homework, why you're late home, why you don't just do like your mother tells you. Then you get to being a teenager, and suddenly it's all about how nobody else understands why. By the time we grow up it's been twenty years or more and everybody stopped having the time to listen to why.
She paused for a second, and then she said: it's like a race to recite our dreams and opinions out loud before somebody else does. Maybe after all this time, people forget why altogether.
When August said that, I thought of childhood, of the dull clementine sun and my gilded palms, and I remembered how to feel peace again. Peace of a kind that makes you live for the present, knowing the future is coming and that it's not so frightening anymore, no matter what comes with it. It was to do with finding things that give us hope - not as needy as desire; not as innocent as prayer – and August gave me hope for a lot of things, from the second I looked under that dark red hood.
I think that's where a story started.