Seville, Spain, 2011
It’s late, and we’d talked for hours. Long enough that when we looked away, our eyes burned from the light off our screens, and our ears sore from the headphones pressing against them.
I’m fucked tomorrow, I groaned, glancing at the clock to the bottom right of the computer.
What I remember about those days – was how the Skype screen froze periodically, extorting us into various unflattering frames for minutes at a time.
You should see your face right now, you said. Camera caught you on the end of ‘tomorrow’.
Is my mouth in the shape of an ‘O’?
Yeah. Like the Scream movie.
I grinned. Or like a blowie.
My jokes are weak at 3 in the morning.
Are they ever strong?
You smiled into the screen.
God dammit Lindsey, you moaned, having also just recognized the time. I have class at 8.
I have kids to wake up at 7:15.
Don’t you just drag them out, feed them, and get rid of them?
You mean drag them out of their bunks crying, beg them to brush their teeth, force fruit and shitty Spanish cereal down their throats, and then scream at them to hurry and get their shoes on before class? Yes. I just do that. And then I walk them the mile to school while they kick pebbles at people passing by.
I nodded to let you know I agreed.
Living the millennial dream, you laughed suddenly. An Au Pair in Spain. Woooo college gap year. You twirled your hands in the air.
I smiled, mostly because you’re a dick. Hey, I’m out of college now.
Puttin’ that hard-earned degree to good use.
All about experience on the resume.
You shook your head. I love America.
Whatever, Germany touts it too. You just did it younger than I did.
Yeah, in high school, when it doesn’t matter.
I agreed. Nothing really mattered then, did it?
Not at all. We just thought it did.
I looked at you through the screen; the lamp next to you illuminating your face.
You’re still wearing that same hoodie, I smiled. God you’ve had that poop-colored thing since you lived in Texas.
You grinned. Love this hoodie.
I know. You had it with you the night we met.
Of course you remember that.
Do I what?
Remember that night?
You rolled your eyes. Don’t be sentimental just ’cause it’s late.
I’m always sentimental.
Don’t I know it?
I know you remember.
You paused, twirling a pen between your fingers like you’d done periodically throughout the time we’d been on the call.
Yeah, I remember.
I smiled. Changed your life.
You looked up from the pen between your fingers. Did I ever thank you for that night?
I’m sure, I said. But it’s been 7 years so I don’t remember.
I still don’t know how I shattered that glass.
God, it went everywhere. Shards flyin’ all over the ground.
So embarrassing, you admitted. There I was a foreign kid in Texas – shattering some rich ass family table.
Didn’t you just set a glass down on it?
I don’t remember, you grinned. I think I was setting something on the table right as someone bumped into me, and I slammed it down too hard, you paused. Fuck if I’ll ever know but it was embarrassing.
Your English was so shit back then too.
So bad, you agreed. I remember when you came to help –
I do too.
And you were on your knees picking up glass – you were so fucking pretty in that dress, I think it was blue – and I’d seen you earlier that night when you’d walked into that dance, you paused. Was it prom? Or some home-thing?
That’s it, you said. We don’t do that in Germany. And I wanted you to go back to the party and not worry about it – but I didn’t know how to communicate it, you know? And you were just there next to me with you dress hiked up, picking up glass.
I remember, I smiled. You were kind of a dick I thought, but then I realized you couldn’t communicate directly.
And then I remember you kinda disappeared – down by that tree near the lake.
Yeah, I needed a minute.
Smoking a cigarette, I said. I watched you – you probably never knew that – I watched you from the balcony.
Why does that not surprise me?
You stirred in your chair, watching me through the screen.
It’s late Linds, you said, your head cocked to the side. It’s late now.
I nodded. For both of us.
It’s weird to be on the same timezone, isn’t it?
We sat there – paused.
If I never said thank you, you said. Then I say it now: thank you, Lindsey Elise Hall, thank you for helping me that night.
You bowed towards the computer. Thank you for helping an innocent foreign exchange student in a unknown Texas world.
You’re welcome sir, I said, with an accent that sounded more British than posh. I returned the bow forward.
You were beautiful that night, you smiled. And you helped me.
Am I beautiful now?
You looked away. Enough, you said. I think it’s time for bed.
And I agreed.
You will never not be beautiful, you said – as we hung up the phone. But I hope I don’t need to be the one to remind you of that.
I smiled; the camera frozen as we pushed end on the screen.
And all these years later, I never forgot that you told me that.
Not even this morning, when I wake up: loose fragments of our memories within me, sharp as fishhooks. They still impale me when I least expect it.