"Caleb, where the hell are you?" I jumped in place, stuffing my hands under my armpits. "Shit, shit, shit!" The freezing cold wind cut across my face, and I shuddered, finally giving up the stoic act. This had to be one of the most annoying moments of my life.
I heard thundering footsteps and then felt a hard splat of something wet on my back.
"Aah!" Sputtering, I turned around, only to get a mouthful of wet sand. "Dude, what the hell!" I spat and ducked, feeling grains trickle down my shirt. I scooped up my own handful and launched it at Caleb. The wind pushed most of it back, but I managed to get sand on Caleb's shirt.
"Friendly fire, save me!" He screeched dramatically, throwing sand with both arms.
"I'm gonna kill you!" I roared, running at him, sand trailing out of my hands.
The sand fight continued for some time until both of us looked more like melting sand giants than people.
"I surrender!" Cale declared, falling over exhaustedly.
Seriously? "Son of a bitch!" I panted, staggering to the sand next to him. "You started it!"
"Oh, come on, you were asking for it! All cuddly on a beach, in your new sneakers-"
WHAM! I grinned uncontrollably, scrambling away from Caleb. "Hey, hey! You started it! You started it-" I shouted, raising my hands in defense.
Caleb groaned. "Fine, I'll let you go, amigo. This once." He warned me darkly when I lowered my hands. "Ah shit, I'm all wet and shit now." Caleb saw my look and immediately back-tracked. "Sorry, sorry, c'mon, I love you!"
"Argh!" I yelled as he crashed into me. "Get off! Yo!" I finally pushed him off, rolling my eyes when he cackled, rolling on the beach.
"Man, who hurt you?" Caleb wheezed, finally tumbling onto his stomach.
"Your mom," I replied, knowing by Caleb's howling laugh that I had failed at that one. "Shut up man, I call you for something important, and this is how you-"
"Okay, okay!" Caleb raised both hands in surrender, sitting up. "Lay it on me, what's goin' on with the parents? Isn't there some Muslim law against divorce?"
I contemplated throwing more sand at him. "Dude, seriously? Muslims can divorce just like regular people. And it's going like shit. Everyone knows and keeps bringing food over, or talks and talks, but nothing changes!" I punched a clump of sand next to me.
"Didn't you want a divorce tho'? Like, I may be absolutely off here, but you told me last year that everything sucked with them."
I dragged a hand through my hair, exhaling forcefully. "I know! I know, but-ugh, okay, let's talk about something else."
"Something else, Caleb."
"-because we can keep going, personally I love discussing-"
"Okay, you wanna hear about something cool?" Caleb smiled deviously.
Reluctantly, because I wanted to continue yelling about life, the pandemic, the scarcity of jobs, I nodded.
"Bruh, I got into the engineering program!" Caleb yelled, his voice ecstatic. "I'll be seeing your nerdy ass at Uni next year!"
"Yeah!" I high-fived him immediately, knowing how nervous he had been about this. "I told you! You got nothing to worry about!"
"I got in!" Caleb hollered, his voice cracking a little at the end.
I caught his eye, and both of us broke into laughter. "Damn, we're going to Uni next year." I felt light-headed.
"Uh-uh, kids no more," Caleb said. "Yo, you should have seen my mom's face, one of the best moments of my life."
"Are there more?" I asked dryly. "Didn't Angie break up with you last week because of the haircut?"
"Leave the cut!" He punched me awkwardly, scowling. "Don't be depressing, I got loads more. Like when Angie and I first went out. What about you? Top ten best moments?"
"Ten? Okay, finally mastering the ollie," I laughed while Caleb did his awkward giggle thing.
"You still have all your teeth? Congrats, you clumsy asshole," Caleb grinned. "There has to be more than that."
"Fine, punching Jack Friedman in the sixth grade."
"Oh, so you've always been an angry weirdo. What did he do?"
"He kept bugging my sister and saying racist shit."
Caleb's eyebrows shot up. "Damn, get woke, Jack."
I felt like I pulled down the mood. "You're next."
"Easy, ask your mom about last night."
Caleb let out a yell and ran as he saw me move towards him. I leapt up, sprinting after him.
I chased him halfway down the beach until I finally tackled him onto the ground, fake attacking him.
"Shit, shit!" He screamed, squirming against my tasers. "Stop, this is assault! Help, somebody!"
"Leave my mom out of it!" I warned half-heartedly, grinning, sitting down.
Caleb groaned. "Or what? Just kidding."
Both of us sat in what could only be called a weirdly deep silence.
I kicked his leg. "Keep going."
"With what?" He asked, spitting sand out of his face.
"Running," I scoffed when he looked confused. "The list, moron!"
"I thought your mom-okay, okay, moving on. What number am I on?" He asked, sitting up and cracking his knuckles.
"I don't know, three down?" I suggested, fidgeting with some rocks.
"Two, doofus, and I guess pranking you that time during April Fool's!" He laughed. "Yo, the look on your face when you opened your locker."
I swore. "That was you?! I had no other clothes!"
"Hey, hey, it's in the past, and we weren't friends then." Caleb chuckled.
"Aw, you think we're friends?" I asked, stretching out the last word mockingly.
"Oh, I'm sorry, do your other minions come out during a goddamn pandemic for you? This shit is irresponsible, you know?"
"I'm messing with you," I shoved him lightly on the shoulder.
"And the abuse continues!" He pretended to look upset. "You're next, by the way."
"Oh yeah, okay, kissing Leyla before school shutdown." I looked right at Caleb as I said it.
"And you didn't tell me?!" Caleb laughed, "Are y'all dating or something?"
"Yeah," I smirked as Caleb whacked me. "We also text and call every night."
"Oh, I pity her! You're the most boring person in existence. What do you even tell her?"
"Shut up! We talk about tons of stuff, politics, coding, our families-"
"My boy's getting married?!"
"No! We just talk, and she's funny and-stop, stop making that face!" I turned to threaten instead. "You want me to throw more sand?"
"It just happens!" Caleb smirked as he regarded me. "So, she stayin' here for Uni?"
"Yes," I mumbled, trying to fight the smile. Instantly, I forced down all the stupid thoughts that were coming up.
"Ay! You got it made, man!" Caleb whistled. "That's a good moment. For me, I loved my tenth birthday because I got to go to a waterpark."
I had to smile: that was way too goofy. "Nice! I liked it when I went to a paintball party for the first time, so basically-"
"-Basically, my sixteenth birthday." Caleb finished, grinning. "Yeah, that's one of mine too."
I remembered another sandy moment. One I loved. "I liked going to Seattle. I mean, the city was okay, but we visited this glass museum or something, and my parents didn't fight once. Not a single time that trip. They made jokes about hose decorations, we stayed in hotels." I stared at the darkening water, tracing the subtle waves with my eyes.
Caleb was staring at me, jacket pulled tight around him. "Yeah." He cast his gaze downwards, studying his shoes.
Both of us sat for a moment, doing nothing. I didn't know what to say anymore. Leyla had heard all of this, and it felt weird repeating so much personal stuff to anyone. I knew I wasn't unique: Caleb's mom had remarried, Leyla's mom had died five years back.
But I hated this. Every single thing that happened after this would suck. Moving into a second house, not seeing both my parents. Going to parties and events being the only divorced brown family we knew. I stuffed my hands into my pockets, hearing the cry of some far-off bird.
"You know what, screw this," Caleb said, and I glanced at him in surprise. "Enough of the sad, depressing stuff. Talk about top ten future moments."
"What?" I asked, attempting a smile, for his sake at least.
"Things like I can't wait for us to attend the first day of uni." Caleb grinned, clearly envisioning something more interesting than a day of lectures.
I thought for a minute. "Okay, I think I would love us going to Spain."
"Spain." Caleb echoed, tilting his head. "Sounds like a plan to me. But, personally, I'm looking forward to our first-night clubbing."
"I know, no alcohol." Caleb stretched, "Fine, how about: us going to six flags."
"Yes." I said immediately, "I cannot wait for you to cry on the rollercoasters."
"Excuse me?" Caleb scoffed. "I used to be afraid of heights. I'm my own man now."
"Yeah, yeah, Dobby," I spoke without thinking, imagining a future suddenly. I already knew my next three things. "I can't wait for you to get married."
Caleb's laugh disturbed the tranquility of the night. "Me? Aren't most people excited for themselves?"
"Yeah, you, I wanna do stuff, you know, party, make wedding puns, even give a speech where I spill everything." I regretted this, I realized, sharing something so...weird and private. "I think it could be cool." I shrugged, feigning disinterest.
"Y'know, it might be. We could try out James Bond suits, party all night, and holy shit, I cannot wait for you to finally try out jokes, like, ten years into our friendship." Caleb elbowed me jokingly, and I had to smile. "We're gonna wonder if you were body-snatched."
"I also want this pandemic to end!" I said immediately.
"Amen!" Caleb yelled. "Though, we really should be sitting more far apart."
"Further apart," I corrected automatically but thought about all the stuff we had already done without being far enough.
I caught Caleb's eye, and both of us snickered but did move apart.
We were practically neighbours, met each other all the time. I think Caleb's mom came over last week to return one of our dishes. But holy shit, if my doctor mother knew I was meeting someone so close, I might die of something other than covid.
"I cannot wait to see a movie in theatres!" Caleb declared.
"Or to finally, finally get to do everything normally again!" I continued.
"Like meet girlfriends," Caleb said suggestively, wiggling his eyebrows.
"Or get better haircuts." I countered with a smile.
"Hey, my mom cut this, back off!" Caleb said, running a hand over his hair. "I can't wait to travel. I love travelling."
"To Spain," I said, inhaling the stiff sea breeze.
"Okay, man, Spain!" Caleb cracked his neck, yawning. "Or when we can talk back to our parents."
"Like you don't already?" I snorted. "I can't wait for my first car."
"I want a Tesla. That would be a top ten moment." Caleb yawned again, brushing sand off the front of his coat.
I let my head hang back, blowing out air. "It's weird. I don't get it." I must have been tired to say all this.
"What a surprise," Caleb commented, but then waved his hand. "Please continue with the deep thoughts, sir."
Unbothered, I continued. "I don't know. Today is so weird. It feels like it will change everything, but also nothing. I feel kind of useless, I don't know. Like I don't matter."
Caleb said nothing. "You matter to Leyla," He smiled when I glared at him. "I'm joking. Listen, yeah, will this be a thing? Hell yeah. It's gonna be annoying, embarrassing, and god-awful. Will it end? Yeah. But you're going to move on. And become an incredible programmer or something-"
"Or something," I said sarcastically.
"It's gonna work out. We're gonna figure it out." Caleb said firmly. "I don't know shit about the future, but I know that everyone thinks this, and before you know it, everyone still ends up with top ten moments. Like ask anyone, before they die, and they remember the good shit."
"Anyone?" I challenged, thinking of more than a few people I could name.
"Don't be like that," Caleb whined. "Remember shit like us being hella late to Winston's chem class in the tenth, or you scoring that epic goal against those Reddington pricks."
"That was epic." I laughed, resting my chin against my knees. Remember shit like your best friend being by your side in the worst of times. Remember this top ten moment. I chose not to say that. "So what you're essentially saying.. is my sadness means nothing, remember the good times?"
Caleb glowered at me. "Why am I even here? Jesus, you're so annoying!"
"I'm kidding! Thanks, man, I mean it. You're not a terrible friend."
"Wow, thank you!" Caleb clutched his heart. "I'm so glad I could be of service."
"And that's why you're my favourite minion," I said, grinning at him.
Both of us grinned, and Caleb nudged me, standing up. "C'mon, drama queen, let's go home."
I almost took his hand, but then both of us smiled knowingly and laughed.
"Close call," I smirked, standing up on my own. "Let's go."