"It's not everlasting. Nothing is everlasting," he said.

"Fine, just Gobstopper then," I replied. "I was just calling it by its proper name, the Everlasting Gobstopper."

"Mine's still at a tart stage. I haven't gotten to sweet yet. But let's compare anyway."

We both pulled them out of our mouths and held them up. Mine was robin's egg blue, and slightly larger than his, which had morphed into a sunny yellow.

We had grown up summers together, played freeze tag when we were small, and read books together on his grandfather's bed. That was before we were teased for being boyfriend and girlfriend, as if there could be such a thing at ages 6 and 8. The teasing had quickly put to an end any interaction, and after that we'd split by gender with him playing baseball and kickball and rundown with the other boys and me playing art school and Girls Chase Boys with the other girls.

Now it was years later. I was thirteen and he was fifteen and only the mundane had brought us together. His father had business in Saudi Arabia in the summers, and so each summer he'd been dropped off at his grandfather's house. With no movies, no swimming pool, no driver's license and no shopping mall, we'd both been desperate for company. He'd spied me walking to the little candy store and joined. The Everlasting Gobstoppers were a throwback to when we were little.

"Hope you like being bored," I said. "Cause that's what's gonna happen if you're here all summer."

He laughed then. "Yes, I love being bored. Why do you think I chose to spend the day with you?" He'd become handsome, his curly mop turned blonde on the ends, and a summer burn decorated the bridge of his nose and cheeks.

I punched him then, a little punch in his ribs with my elbow. He was bigger than he was last summer. He was playing cricket, something we didn't play in the States, and maybe it was that or just a growth spurt that had given him broad shoulders where he used to be scrawny, a layer of muscle where there used to be ribs.

"I wish I could swim."

"I know."

"Do you worry about your dad, since he's flying?"

"No," he said, suddenly irritated.

"I would be. They say the virus load is worse overseas. Also, who knows if they have proper medical care," I said. "And flying just increases the odds of contracting it."

He pursed his lips. "Mmhmm."

"Plus I know a few people who have had it. They almost didn't make it. Lost feeling in their legs--"

"Shut up!"

"Geeze, Lousie, what's your problem?"

I saw tears welling in his eyes. I hadn't realized he really was worried.

"My mom has it."


"My mom is with my dad in Saudi. She caught it after they landed. I don't want to talk about it."

It was my turn to be embarrassed then. I hadn't intended to open a wound. I actually just wanted to show that I wasn't afraid. I was a jerk. Who did this type of a thing, and why, I found myself asking myself.

"Wait, sorry," I said. It was quiet then.

"I'm leaving."

And that was how it started.

I felt so bad about ruining the day that I decided I would make up for it. Distraction, I thought. We have to get distracted.

Distraction is not easy in the time of pandemic. We wouldn't be able to go anywhere, and reading and watching TV were too solitary. No one was around. I began to think that being with me was evidence of choosing boredom. On Tuesday, I had an epiphany.

"What's that?" he asked when he answered the doorbell.

"Panini with arugula, bacon, turkey, avocado, a chocolate chip cookie and a thermos of lemonade. Oh, and my laptop."


"Because we are touring the Uffizi today, and we'll be having lunch in the atrium."

He looked at me quizzically, but ushered me in.

And that's what we did. Tours were easy. Art had been a love of mine since we were little, and I loved to see him wrinkle his brow when I told him about "The Birth of Venus."

"The model was actually Botticelli's childhood love," I said. "He became obsessed with her beauty and made it his lifelong mission to capture her extraordinary bewitching charm. They had seen each other every summer since they were both very young. . . "


I stifled a laugh, but poorly. It turned into snorting.

He kissed me then, to both of our surprise.

Every day after that, we found something to do, walks, trips to the driving range, bike rides, or make-it-yourself ice cream sundaes.

It was mid-August when he told me that we couldn't meet up. "I'm going to the airport to meet up with my mom and dad. They're back. Mom's made a good recovery. I'll see you next summer."

But he didn't.

Instead, I heard that he had contracted the virus himself. Then I heard that he was not doing well, that he was having difficulty breathing. The next thing I heard was that he was gone. As in forever, gone.

* * *

I still think about it, even now, some thirty years later. There's not much we have in this world, other than each other. Those summer months of going to the museum, of building giant hot fudge sundaes, of joking were my first taste of summer love. Sometimes I think back to the times that preceded even those, when we lay on the bed in his grandfather's house, his cowboy boots hanging off the edge, my roller skates next to then, and we read. Always I think about him when I pass by a candy store. I remember the Gobstopper, bright and large and how we used to suck on it, sweet-tart, sweet-tart, sweet-tart until we'd sucked it down to nothing but the pleasant aftertaste and a candy colored ring on our tongues.

He was right. Nothing is everlasting.

August 02, 2020 15:40

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Ellie Mae
03:03 Aug 13, 2020

Wow wow wow. I was expecting this to be another story about COVID, but it was new and refreshing! I loved the way you started and ended with the same word but in a very different context. Simply marvellous. I would really appreciate it if you read my most recent story, and leave any feedback you have! And again, thanks for a great read!!


Amy DeMatt
15:15 Aug 17, 2020

Thanks, I’ll check it out!!


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Aditya Pillai
16:39 Aug 06, 2020

Incredible. I loved everything about this. The whole piece is fantastic. The sense of pathos is so strong yet so powerful at the end, especially that last line, its meaning so beautifully and tragically twisted. Not going to lie, I got chills. An absolute gem. Looking forward to more from you! Would love it if you could check out mine too :)


Amy DeMatt
23:46 Aug 10, 2020

Thanks, Aditya! I just read one of yours, "Crimson Tears," which gave me chills! Looking forward to reading more. Thanks for the read!


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Jonathan Blaauw
12:42 Aug 04, 2020

You never disappoint with your stories. This was incredible, there’s so much here. After you mentioned cricket, though, I was always going to love it, so if my review is biased, that’s why. Beginning and ending with the same sentence, only having the meaning change at the end, is masterful. It gives everything a sense of closure and emphasizes the tragic theme of loss. I would’ve thought ‘Nothing is Everlasting’ would be the perfect title, but your choice one-ups that because of the clever play on words and, again, the way it captures the...


Amy DeMatt
12:16 Aug 05, 2020

@Jonathan Blaauw: what a beautiful comment, thank you! So glad to hear that you are planning to write more, too! I really enjoyed your work and am delighted to have found a companion on the site to help me stay motivated. I'll look forward to checking out your writing and thanks again for your kindness!


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