“What?” Cindy’s voice deadened all the bustle and hustle around me and hung me up in the air from my neck, it seemed.
“Cindy!” I managed to crow out. “I’ve been trying to reach you for ages!”
“…I think there’s static or something. Can you hear me OK?”
“Yes Cindy, I’m so relieved to finally hear your voice again.” On second thought, I better try to cover up my lapsus linguae. “Oh wait, no, you’re right, it’s a little fuzzy. Pretty fuzzy. Very fuzzy. Fuzzy comes and goes.”
“Why hadn’t you called me?” she asked in a heartfelt spoiled voice. “I miss you so bad.”
“I didn’t have any service. Yesterday I just stayed at home and slept at my grandparents’ but today the first thing I did was come unlock my phone so we could talk.”
“My sisters keep telling me you don’t love me anymore and you’re already hooking up with some new girl down there.”
“Cindy, it’s been two days.”
“So you don’t even miss me?”
I slapped my palm on my forehead. “Girl, of course I miss you, I couldn’t even sleep wondering if you were worried.”
An automated voice interrupted the line in Spanish: “Su saldo disponible es de diez pesos.” Your available balance is ten pesos.
“Fuck!” I blurted out.
“Are you mad at me? Why are you mad at me?!?” Cindy freaked out.
“I have to go. The thing is running out.”
“What thing? Our thing? Why is our thing running out?”
“No, no! Let me explain! Our thing is good. Our thing is rock solid. Cindy, there is no other girl. But I bought a card-”
The automated voice chimed in again. “Gracias por usar Telefónica-”
“No, no, no, no, NO! You were supposed to give me at least five minutes! That was not five minutes!” The shoppers crowding me gave me weird looks as they moved a few steps away in caution. “Damn it!”
I went back to the cell phone booth to buy another card, then thought it better to buy it at an actual store. I walked down the main street shrouded in anguish at the idea that Cindy and I had argued and that she might be crazy enough to think there was some other girl.
God, why did I have to say “Mindy.” That had to be hands down my stupidest mistake ever. More stupid than when I told Hugo back in the locker room that I would ask Cindy about whether or not her breasts were real. More stupid than when I was eleven and I poured detergent in the motor oil of my aunt’s station wagon to clean the fuel injectors.
As I walked past the main plaza and fountain, everything looked like something I ought to buy her so that she’d know, when I got back, that I’d been thinking about her nonstop. The Nemo balloons tied to a cart. The bags of flaming hot Takis- miniature crisp chips rolled into crunchy scrolls. I walked past a row of teddy bears holding embroidered hearts that said “Te Quiero,” every one of them staring at me with disapproval. Whatever the misunderstanding, it had to have been my fault. Cindy was incapable of faulty judgment. After all, she had chosen me.
I heard a car honk. It was Elias at a stop sign. He rolled down the window. “Where you going buddy? Hop in.”
I ran over to the passenger’s side. “How’d you find me? How’d you know I was lost?”
“I was just passing. Man, you look hung over. What’s wrong?”
“My girlfriend. I think she thinks I don’t miss her cause I haven’t been able to call. And then I did call and I accidentally maybe might have called her Mindy.”
“My grandparents’ neighbor. She’s a hair stylist.”
“Blonde? Petite? Green eyes?”
“Yeah I guess. You know her?”
“She’s friends with my sister.”
“Yeah. Hey if you wanna call your girlfriend, here, use my phone. It’s only like ten Mexican cents a minute.”
“Oh thanks, I owe you.” He unlocked the phone and handed it to me. I dialed but no answer. I tried again and again. I left a voicemail.
“Is she temperamental?” Elias asked.
“Nah. That’s just the way she is.”
“Well she is a woman. Or girl. How old is she?”
“Seventeen. Same as me.”
“Relationships are hard enough when you’re an adult, man. At your age it’s harder to deal with changes in hormones and stuff.”
“Do you date? You seeing anyone?”
“Nope. I’m just happy finding myself first.”
“I’d feel lost without Cindy.”
“How long you been dating?”
“Going on two months.”
He laughed and drove onto an on ramp on the speedway. “I’m gonna show you my shop.”