12 Hours in Paradise
We stepped into the open-air lobby, where tables had been set out with bowls of the usual happy-hour snacks. A light breeze ruffled my hair, and scarlet-headed birds darted from table to table, looking for crumbs. Pigeons strutted purposefully under the tables, scurrying away whenever a human foot got too close.
Chester made a beeline to the bar, where he ordered a virgin strawberry daiquiri. Arash and I followed him, each of us ordering guava juice. I really was going to miss Hawaii. I never got to drink guava juice in Reno. I never got to feel air this soft against my bare skin. The surf pounded in the distance. I’d miss that sound too. A constant. The heartbeat of this island.
We sat down at an open table while Chester brought back bowl after bowl of chips, popcorn, pretzels, and everything else he could get his hands on.
“So is that why you talk funny?” he asked when he finally sat down. “Because your mom is Persian?”
“I grew up in six different countries,” Arash said. “I speak four languages. So my accent is a mixture of all the places I’ve ever lived. A mongrel accent.”
“A mongrel,” Chester said. “Like Genghis Khan?”
“Oh my God.” I shook my head. “Genghis Khan was a Mongol, not a mongrel.” I turned to Arash and rolled my eyes. “Sorry about my brother.”
But he just laughed. “Mongrel. Like a mutt. A mixture of many things.”
And then we talked about Reno and what it was like to live there.
And about the town outside of San Francisco where Arash lived.
And about how he was in Hawaii for a high school band competition.
And at some point Chester got bored and went up to our room to watch TV while my parents finished packing.
And at some point Arash asked if we could trade contact info just in case.
Just in case he ever came to Reno.
Just in case I ever went to San Francisco.
And at some point I realized Arash was not like any other guy I’d ever known. But in a good way.
And at some point after that, he left and I went up to the room I shared with Granny and finished packing my own stuff.