By Isis Molina
It was the first night of summer break, and the heat was relentless.
Catalina had been driving around downtown Irving, looking for something to do. After one of the most brutal semesters of college she’d ever suffered through, she wasn’t about to sit around doing nothing. Her sudden freedom was not about to be wasted.
Her phone rang louder than the music on the radio. She hadn’t really been listening to anything specific, but she couldn’t drive without anything playing in the background.
“You got Cat,” she said, putting it on speaker.
“Thanks for telling me you were back in town.”
Cat blushed. Shit. “Hey, Monse. I just got in today from Austin.”
“I know. I saw it on your Snapchat. That’s the only way I can keep up with your life anymore. I see how it is.”
Catalina swerved on the road, nearly hitting the car to her right. After getting honked at, she decided to pull over at a Dairy Queen on her path. She cringed. “Sorry, yeah, I know I’ve been hard to reach lately. It’s just, you know, life…is hard.”
“Excuses, excuses,” Monse sighed. “What are you up to, anyway?”
“Nothing, actually. I’m all free tonight.”
“Oh. Well, do you want to hang out?”
Catalina swallowed. “Yeah, yeah. That sounds good. I’ll pick you up in five.”
“Great! I’ll see you soon.”
Catalina hyperventilated in the car for the next two minutes, and then rushed to Monse’s house, which was only two blocks away. She parked in the empty driveway.
The moment Monse stepped into the car, she filled it with her perfume. It was a flowery smell, sweet, and comforting, like a big bed of rose petals. She always wore the same perfume. It was her trademark. Now that Monse was in front of her, dressed in nothing more complicated than jeans and a tank top, Catalina wondered why she had avoided her so long. This felt just like old times. Better, even.
Sure, she knew why, but that silly reason wasn’t worth the price of not having Monse around. Life without Monse was just not good enough.
“Hey,” Monse said, smiling so widely that her face lit up even in the darkness.
“Hi.” It was all Catalina could say.
“Where are we going?”
Catalina gripped the steering wheel. “I’m hungry. Are you hungry? We could get some food.”
“That’d be nice. How about some corn in a cup?”
Catalina smiled. “From the lady outside the grocery store?”
“That’s the best one.”
“Alright. Let’s get some elote.”
After they each got an enormous Styrofoam cup full of corn, sour cream, mayo, lemon juice, cheese, and Valentina, they set out on the road again. For a while, they drove with the windows up and the A/C on, soft music playing in the background.
Then Monse took over. She cut off the A/C, rolled down all the car windows, and plugged in her phone into the aux cord. Como La Flor came on, and she twisted the volume dial enough to make the car vibrate. Catalina hadn’t listened to Selena in years, but she knew every word to this song. God, how long had it been since they sang along to Selena? They must have been fourteen or fifteen. They must have been kids.
Catalina wiggled her shoulders to the song, not feeling confident enough to show off her squeaky voice. Beside her, Monse was clapping her hands along with the song, singing her heart out. Catalina looked at her and laughed when she saw the way her long hair was being tossed around with the wind. Monse didn’t seem to mind that her hair was constantly attacking her face. When Monse’s eyes met hers, she threw her head back in laughter. Her laughter was louder and clearer than the song, and it drowned out every other sound.
Amor Prohibido came on next. This one was a personal favourite. During her more angsty teenage years, Catalina had listened to this one on repeat. It was impossible not to sing along to it. So she sang loudly. She sang despite her voice cracking. She sang and Monse sang with her. And every time they looked at each other, they laughed. Catalina laughed so much her eyes got watery.
Catalina stopped at a red light, and the person in the car next to them rolled down her window. It was an older woman. She was shaking her head to the beat of the song, even though she probably didn’t know what any of the words meant. They “woo’d!” her enthusiasm, shaking their heads along with her.
Somehow, they ended up in the parking lot of an empty park. Catalina left the music on and they got out of the car. They sat on the hood of her blue Honda, finishing the last bits of their corn. The night was still warm, but it wasn’t unbearable anymore.
When Catalina finished her corn, she lay her back down against the windshield. She didn’t care how many times her dad had told her not to do that. This was her car.
Just as Dreaming of You started playing, Monse lay down close beside Catalina, their shoulders brushing. From the place they were parked, right under a tree, they couldn’t see the stars in the night sky. The tree wasn’t entirely to blame, though. In the city, it was sometimes impossible to catch any stars with all the light pollution.
But this was all they had tonight.
Catalina kept her head up, trying to find the glow of a star among the leaves of the tree. “Yeah?”
“I know why you’re avoiding me.”
“Not too hard to guess after our last conversation.” Cat didn’t think her heart could put up with her for much longer. She was making it work twice as hard tonight.
“You know we have to talk about that, right?”
“We don’t have to. We could just pretend nothing ever happened.”
“It’s kinda hard to pretend we didn’t kiss.”
Catalina winced. “You just had to put it out there, didn’t you?”
Monse nudged her side. “Oh, come on. I think it’s good if we talk about it.”
“What is there to talk about?”
“Well, we should definitely talk about how you ran away from me after you did it. That was not cool.”
“I freaked out.”
Monse laughed. “You weren’t alone there, buddy.”
“Alright, so you can’t hold that over me.”
“Maybe not. But I do blame you for avoiding all my messages for the entire semester you were in Austin.”
“I wasn’t avoiding you. I answered all of them.”
“Yeah, just to tell me how busy you were.”
Catalina sighed. “I’m a shit friend, okay?”
Monse nudged her again. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. If I were really mad, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
Catalina looked at her, wrinkling her forehead. “Why aren’t you mad?”
Monse shrugged. “You’re not such a bad kisser.”
That answer was so unexpected that Catalina cackled, and then covered her mouth. “What?”
“Look, I’m just saying, if you want to do it again, I’m cool with it.”
Catalina stared at her. “You’re cool with what?”
Monse rolled her eyes. “You really can’t take a hint.”
And then Monse moved closer and kissed her lips once, twice, and she finally caught on.
Catalina pulled away, eyes wide and heart wild. El Chico del Apartamento 512 was playing and all she could think was, How many songs do we have left?
Monse smiled, and Catalina smiled back, and Selena sang on with no plans to stop.