Horchata

The summer I was 18, we listened to Horchata by Vampire Weekend almost endlessly. When I look inwards at that time, I cannot remember any other song, although of course there must have been others. Based on who I loved back then, who we were drinking with, whose hearts had toyed with our own and whose we had gleefully held on strings, I can guess what the other songs were, if I needed to. But I don’t, so that early November running into the long days of December will always be about chairs to sit, and sidewalks to walk on.

In that time, we are invariably in a car, on our way to the beach. When we get there, we will eat icecreams that get tangled with our hair, and you will ask me for a hair tie, but I won’t have one. We race to the beach, and take photographs for hours. We used to do that a lot; take photos for no real reason. I still have the one you took of me, with my head thrown back laughing, mascara running down my cheeks from the laughter or the wind, or just simply the fact that it was all over, and it was all beginning and we really had no idea what was coming next.

That day is so clear in my mind, the words of the song, and the vanilla-chocolate swirl. Did it only happen once, or did we repeat that day again and again and is that why it stayed with me? Was I driving, or were you? I remember the sound of your laugh in the open-windowed car, how it was the one thing about you that really made you seem like you belonged to your family. You were always lanky, too-long limbs and too-thin hair. That day you were wearing the blue top and yellow high-waisted short-combo that you would wear again and again, the uniform of that summer. I think you were wearing it the night we drank until you got so invincible that you chipped your tooth and kept right on smiling.

6 years later, in my orange-counter-topped kitchen in Mexico, the home of real horchata, I listen to Vampire Weekend. Out of nowhere, the realization dawns on me that it was less than a year after that day that we stopped being friends, perhaps only months. That day at the beach and all the sand we dragged home in your-my-it-never-mattered-whose car is chronologically the last memory I have of you that I can hold in my hand. I don’t know if you fell in love with him later that month, or the next year. I went off to university, and you started your first job and bought a new item of clothing every week. After that I am always in cars with boys on my way to watch someone surf, drinking wine from a bottle with a handle and you are nowhere to be found.

It’s a very strange life, and it is almost stranger to be asked to believe that there was once a day where we sat side by side, singing along to the same song for the last time, and all we thought to talk about was how windy it was.

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