Friendship: Write about being friends with someone.
He became my friend because he wanted to date my mom, or at least that was what he initially told me. And that was weird to me since he was a full two years my junior. My cousin, I would’ve understood, but my mom presented some problems that I couldn’t shake away. I laughed as I remembered, now waiting for him so that we could have lunch in this city that was, strangely enough, now largely foreign to me. I told myself I’d mention that at some point, just for old times’ sake.
It was a long way from the ESL classes where we had met a couple of years ago as teenagers, now we were two mostly grown adults, or so we could dare to believe. Still, we had kept in touch, her and there, sharing what life was bringing our way. I’d invited him over when I moved to Tallahassee for college, but for some reason, we always kept postponing. He ended up moving to Austin and invited me over as well, but it wasn’t until he graduated and moved back to Brownsville that the opportunity presented itself—oddly enough in the weekend I was to come back for my mom’s wedding.
“Amiga!” He said, when I waved at him in the distance, and when we met in a hug, it was as if we’d never said goodbye. “Como va todo?”
His accent was both funny and sweet, and his wide smile brought me back to the first day of our ESL classes, when he’d asked me why did I want to learn English when everybody around town spoke Spanish. I had just shrugged, first because he was right, but also because explaining that to him required me to go to a place I wasn’t yet ready to visit.
“I knew you’d learn!” I told him, and even if the hug was over, my arms were still resting on his shoulders and his on my hips. “It’s been so long, oh my god, how have you been?”
I’d followed his exploits here and there, his trips, his two or three serious girlfriends. The approval of his asylum application, and the beginning of his path towards permanent residency, a path that, in spite of the distance, we’d walked together.
“You brought it with you?” I asked, taking my lanyard apart.
He immediately reached for his pocket, taking his wallet out. We found it almost at the same time and pulled it out synchronously then laughed.
“I look terrible,” I warned him.
“Who cares!” He told me as we exchanged. “It’s a green card, you could put the picture of your foot and it’d still be good.”
“Maybe invalid, though,” I laughed. “With the foot I mean.”
He gave me a look he hadn’t given me in a while. The ‘I know it was meant to be a joke but it’s not funny’ look, and I smiled because I’d missed it, all of it.
“It blows, though,” I told him, indicating his place of birth. “They still put Iraq.”
“It sucks, I know, but I guess they have to. That’s the Regional part in Kurdistan Regional Government. It’s still Iraq for most intents and purposes.”
“Well, look at you with all your fancy English!”
He picked a table outside, he knew that’s what I liked. If there was one thing nobody could ever understand was my obsession with hot weather. The need to feel the sun on my skin, that slightly burning sensation, was the reason that kept me going to warm places.
“We’re having six quesadillas,” he started as soon as the waiter stopped at our table, not even giving him a chance to hand us the menus. “Two chicken, three beef, one cheese only. In the middle please, to share. Side of guacamole, pico de Gallo, and sour cream. She’ll have an orange Fanta, ice to the top of the glass please, and I’ll have a Corona, dressed. Thank you.”
“It’ll be right out, sir,” the waiter said and left.
“How do you know I want to have that and not something else?”
“How do you?” He told me, and I was puzzled for a second. “I mean, maybe I also want to try something new, or eat something else. But that’s our meal, remember? Every Friday after ESL classes. It’s special to us. Tomorrow, later on, whenever else, you can eat whatever you want. But today, we’re going back.”
It was like him to do stuff like that, though. He had a good memory and would hang on to a lot of details that the average person would forget. That was why he would send me random pictures and memes of things that reminded him of anecdotes we’d lived together. And, to be honest, I really liked it, to know that I’d been so special to someone.
“So, when are we traveling together?” I asked him. “You know, somewhere other than here.”
“That’s funny, because I was going to ask you if you wanted to go to New York with me?”
“What is there in New York?”
“Well, I don’t know. The Statue of Liberty?” He laughed, “I just always wanted to visit.”
“I thought maybe Nashville would make more sense,” I said, and braced for him asking—I wanted him to ask.
“Nashville? Why Nashville?”
“Well, isn’t Nashville the city in the States with the largest Kurdish community from Iraq?”
He smiled at me, “Impressive. I see that you keep learning more and more.”
I had to, of course. In my one way, I was still trying to make up for that time I had told him that I had no idea where his country was located. It was one of our first conversations, the one where I told him that my mom had dragged my little brother and me on a plane from Bogota to Mexico City to then take us on a bus to the north and have us cross the border with her. He told me he won, though. Same trajectory, only he had done Kurdistan-Turkey by land, Turkey-Greece by boat, Greece-Mexico by plane, and then some coyotes had helped him for the last leg across the Rio Grande. Oh, and he also won because he had done all of that on his own. No family, no friends.
Why didn’t you stay in Europe? I’d asked him mostly because it seemed like the right question to ask.
I don’t know, he’d told me, I guess I figured I might as well just make my whole way over here. I always dreamed of seeing America. He’d looked at me and, probably sensing that things were getting a bit too emotional, had smiled and added, plus, it was also destiny. I had to meet your mom. don’t forget you have to help me ask her out on a date.