This is my favorite memory of you.
Your mother is driving down the 101 or the 10 or the 405. I am seventeen, you are eighteen and we are heading into L.A. All the streets merge into one as we speed down the howling freeway and the sun follows us as if it’s tethered to the car, dancing above us like a blinding balloon. Spring is blazing into summer and outside the air is rising in waves. We are wearing sundresses, but you look prettier in yours, and each man we pass will say so in his way. Your mother pulls into a parking garage and we rise to the top, breaking through the dank, shadowed levels into the striking sunshine. We park and your mother reminds us to keep our purses close to our bodies.
The fashion district breathes claustrophobic. We’ve woven in and out of shops where sparkling jewelry hung on hooks and the store clerks watched you because you were with me. I bought a topaz clip for my hair; you bought nothing. Your mother waited outside. We turn a corner into an alley where vendors flourish on either side. They call to us in Spanish, beckoning us inside their shops where glittering dresses stand draped over mannequins and heels encrusted with faux diamonds gleam in the windows. Inside one of the boutiques your mother haggles with the woman in rapid Spanish, wearing down the price of two clutch purses that would match our prom dresses. Inside another, we try on straw sunhats and giggle at each other. A man tells your mother you are beautiful. He doesn’t look at me; he knows I am not hers.
Back on the freeway, the sun has dipped in the sky, slanting the car’s shadow. In twenty minutes, we’re in Pasadena. The air is cooler, but only just, and we climb the steps out of the parking garage onto Paseo Colorado. We shop for shoes, but we don’t find anything. Your mother asks if we’re hungry. Back in the car, you call to order a pizza. In fifteen minutes we’ll be back at the house and we can eat, she tells us. She asks if we’re sad high school is ending and we say yes and no and she asks if there’s anyone we’re worried we won’t see again and we say yes, but not each other—we aren’t worried about each other. Your mother glances at me in the rear-view mirror, her eyebrows raised. She says you’re terrible at staying in touch. I’m taken aback, but I tell her I’m not worried and she tells me I should be; that I’ll see. She doesn’t laugh and I shake my head and I look at you and you’re laughing but you don’t say anything.