Fifteen

By Francis Bainton

Francis is a bibliophile who writes whenever he has the time.

Though it was the kind of occasion that one really should remember, I can’t actually recall the day itself particularly well. I remember the bare facts: we had finished school, it was a hot day in late June and I was with friends. I was fifteen soon to be sixteen and the summer stretched ahead of me, a swathe of days without responsibility. In the years to follow I would begin to count how many of these luxurious summers I had left before life beyond education, but on that day I was just happy to be with my friends without the framework of school holding us all in place.

I can’t remember what we talked about. I can’t remember how I felt from moment to moment. I can’t remember who was absent, though some were. These details, however, are vivid:  

Beneath the shade of a tree, I exchanged my bright green t-shirt for a friend’s loose sand-coloured one.

In town, I walked with a friend through the newly-completed shopping centre as he pushed his bike. We talked with great animation in the bright, sterile space. 

At the place that had been our regular after-school haunt, we all posed for a photograph on a bench, where we packed in together tight and laughed and smiled, squinting at the camera in the sun.

We got on a punt, went down the river and pitched up by a tree. A couple of us swung from a conveniently low-hanging branch. 

I wish dearly that I could remember it better, and I worry that I never will. I have a few pieces from that day, and I have two or three friends whose own memories are other pieces to the bright jigsaw. The few photos that were taken are available to me, when I sit alone looking at a screen, even if the old friend who held the camera is not.