“So, how did you two meet?”
“Oh, you know, like everyone else does. It was Easter, 1997. People on the beach were drinking heavy quantities of Pacifico and Indio. Back then, they were good beers, not the slightly acidic, watered down urine we are sold at the shops these days.”
I wasn’t the best of swimmers, but I knew Miramar like the back of my hand. Hey, you had to, you didn’t want to end up like that poor devil, José Antonio, who drowned 5 years ago after a fifth of Bacardi and a bet with his dumb friends.
There, by the palapas and the batch of dead palm trees. That’s a riptide zone. Near the jetty? Portuguese man-o-war, hammerheads, and porpoises. Maybe a scorpion fish or two, waiting to sting you, but the real danger were the currents. Don’t believe the rumours, in the Gulf of Mexico what really kills you is the treacherous currents.
Easter, 1997. People drinking beer, grooving to the Space Jam soundtrack, having a ball. My friends lamented that it was their last Easter before graduation. Ugh, growing up, sucks so much.
I’m parked there, next to Elaine’s Mercury. Sofia’s in the back, trying to get that idiot Jorge to actually make a move for once in his deplorable life. I’m having a beer with Yartzi. He got dumped back in February by Melissa, and, of course, he hasn’t given up hope.
“She won’t come back, man. It’s time to let it go.”
“I know, it’s just…you know.”
He gulps the beer down and drops the glass carcass in a neat plastic bag we’ve reserved for this. He moseys to the back of the pickup truck, excuses himself as he squeezes through the dudes from the football team and grabs a couple of cold Indio beers. Hands me one over and chugs half in one go.
“Not the way to solve things, Yartz.”
“We all deal with it one way or another. How you holding out?”
“Alright, pingüino Rodríguez. It’s just graduation what’s been bugging me. Not really sure any of us are fit for ‘the real world’. We’re gonna get crushed out there.”
“Yes, but we’ll get paid for it. Better than getting our asses kicked daily, with terrible grades and no money for our troubles.”
We clink the bottles. The roar of the sea breaks the rhythm for a moment, then we go back to our cacophony. A girl two car parties from us winked at me while downing a beer. I could’ve winked back. Didn’t. Shucks. They are still blasting ‘Fly like an eagle’. We’ve got Soundgarden’s Down on the Upside in our turf. Yartzi’s fave album so far. A few cars to the left, they’ve got Vengaboys. A few to the front, it’s Fabulosos Cadillacs.
A cacophony, like I said. I’d be lying if I said we can hear a tune -any tune- at all right now. It doesn’t matter. It’s Easter Saturday, we’re getting blasted and it will never be as good as this. In a year, we probably will be paying mortgages, working, meeting in-laws, you name it.
I see the beer and I think of chugging it down. I see the foam forming inside the brown bottle, with a little fizz echoing faintly. I’m ready to down it in one go when I see someone beckoning from the sea. It’s a kid and it’s pointing towards the water. That concentric circle shape, foamy, with a face half-submerged, screaming.
The beer spills as I run towards the water. I can feel my knees giving in but it matters not, I’m running as fast as I can and I dive into the sea. I swim as fast as I can and I wrap my arm around the person. He’s panicking and trashing around. I get hit by an elbow as I close in.
Too quick! What an idiot I am! I try going below but I get a knee to the nose. He’s panicking badly and this might end up bad for both. Luck has my back and I manage to grab the guy by his back. I surface for air and then I notice that we have been dragged far from the shore.
“We need to swim parallel, we need to break loose from this current” I tell the guy as I start to paddle. I get no response. I pray that he’s passed out. I feel how we both are being dragged out, like pieces of cork, far into the ocean. “Don’t worry, we’ll make it.” For a moment, I wonder how the fuck I got into this. A few minutes back and I was fretting about the future. Right now, I’m dreading the future. We are getting dragged into the river outlet and that’s open sea. I start paddling a little faster, trying to find a way to get out of this riptide. Parallels aren’t enough now, I need to find some sort of tangent to get out of this. I know we can do this. I’m confident and I’m calm.
And then, I felt a bump in my legs. Then again, now on my side. I panic and start to trash around. A costly mistake.
“So you met that day at the beach?”
“No, we actually had a fling before, nothing serious. We thought it was just a phase, foolin’ around. Nothing made to last.”
“And you changed when they …”
“Yes, no one could forget that day. Those two, they were so young, it was so tragic. It made us realize we could make it work, no matter what. Because life is precious, and so short…”
Words: Sam J. Valdés López