I hated summer. The permeating stench of burning cigarettes, porous sweat and cough-inducing car fumes made my head swim and sway with a mixture of nausea and annoyance. I didn’t know why I left the air-conditioned sanctuary that was my one-bedroom apartment all for a Starbucks Frappuccino, considering that the Windy City was currently experiencing a heatwave akin to the blistering furnace depicted in that Holes movie, but here I was slapping my port royale Vans sneakers against the concrete towards my destination. Despite the blistering Sun smiling down at the city, the streets were still bustling with the hubbub of vehicles kicking up gravel, children running and calling to each other, and America’s favorite pastime acting as a background score to the scene that was a Chicago summer.
“I hope the lines aren’t long like last week,” I mumbled to myself, wiping a bead of sweat off my face.
I rounded the corner of Addison Street, swerving around a young couple taking pictures, rolling my eyes ever so slightly. Did I mention that I hate summer? A moment later, I was greeted by the cool sensation of the Starbucks lobby, taking a moment to allow my perspiration-drenched body to dry, using the hem of my charcoal gray shirt to catch any stray sweat that threatened to splash onto the tiled floor. Thankfully, the place was relatively empty save for a girl at a table near the back of the shop with her face buried in a poetry book that I didn’t recognize. I made my way to the counter, hoping that my body odor hadn’t been tarnished by the brutal overlord known summer, and requested a mocha cookie crumble Frappuccino from the strawberry-blonde barista at the counter, telling her that she could put ‘Q’ as the name.
“Interesting name,” a soft, singsong voice quipped. “Pero, what’s the initial stand for?”
Turning to the source, it was the poetry book girl I’d spotted when I walked in. She had placed her book down, giving me full view to put a face to the voice. I made not of her unblemished honey brown skin that glowed as if her soul were made of sunlight. I took in her long, vibrant dyed red hair that was pulled into a high ponytail that fanned out over her shoulders, a singular strand hanging over the right side of her forehead. I observed her almond-shaped brown eyes look me up and down with piqued interest at the enigma of my name, her long and pretty lashes only adding to her allure. I watched her full, pouty lips break into a polite smile, a friendly invitation to have a conversation with her. Pretty women typically made me anxious, which I blamed my social awkwardness for, but I was surprisingly at ease in the presence of the crimson-haired bookworm. I took a seat at her table, clasping my hands together on the table, and returned her polite smile.
“It’s a nickname, actually,” I said, chuckling slightly. “My actual name is Quentin, but everyone calls me Q.”
“Nice to meet you, Q,” she replied, her voice reminding me of the sweetness of honey. “You can call me Yoli.”
I frowned in confusion, trying out every possible pronunciation in my head in order to not offend her if I happened to get it wrong. She noticed my mental gymnastics and let out an airy laugh that infected me with its joy, tugging the corners of my mouth into a small grin.
“Yo-Lee”, Yoli said, her lips emphasizing the ‘o’ sound. “My real name is Yolanda, pero that’s only in professional settings. Outside of that it’s Yoli.”
I nodded then glanced down at the drink she had; the contents of the cup halfway gone.
“What’d you order?” I asked.
“A blonde iced shake expresso,” Yoli responded, showing me the inside of her drink. “With ristretto, white mocha, sweet cream, vanilla sweet cream cold foam and extra caramel drizzle.”
That seemed like a lot for one drink, but it sounded good nonetheless, and I made a mental note to try it one day when I decided to venture out again. We conversed some more, her voice having the effects of a sailor hearing a siren song on my ears, my mind entranced by her intelligence and words; I was so enchanted that I almost missed my name being called for my drink. Drink in hand and body cooled, I made my way to the exit of the shop where my new friend seemed to be waiting for me.
“It was nice meeting,” I put out, smiling. “Maybe we’ll run into each other again?”
Yoli, with a thoughtful shrug, added, “I’m not doing anything right now. Walk to the bookstore with me?”
I sipped my Frappuccino slowly, jokingly toying with the idea in my head a bit, before I felt my arm getting pulled out the door and down Addison Street, her hand firmly holding onto mine as the sun beat down on the back of my neck. Maybe summer wasn’t so bad after all.
Marquise Smith is an avid writer hailing from the Windy City of Chicago. His writing delves into the small things that people don’t give much second thought to. When he is not writing, you can find him at any local bookstore or enjoying his hometown’s signature deep dish pizza.