Night unfolds across the practice range — the simmer of Texas crickets and the lightning bugs fading in and out like traffic lights — and we floor the golf cart down the hill. The wind roars. Our hair whips. I yell to Sai that we’re drug lords on a cigarette boat. He doesn’t hear me, but he twists open a beer and frisbees the cap as we roar past the green flag.
“Shit, man watch out — ”
Then we rip past the red flag, which is 100 yards out. We’re flying. Superman would be winded if he were chasing us.
Then the black flag, which is 200 yards from the practice range. I’m gassing it towards the other side of the range where there’s a sharp ramp built into the grass to prevent golf balls from rolling over into the 18th green. That’s my target. That’s where I’m putting this golf cart.
We hit the ramp, and the cart launches into the air like the motherfucking bus from Speed.
Sai and I have grown close over the past few months. We both work at a five-star country club in Plano, Texas. The kind where Dallas Cowboys players — like Deion Sanders — play 18 holes and smoke cigars. And we are total idiots. We off-road golf carts, steal snacks, and hit expensive balls into the ponds.
In the summer, friends are whomever you’re scheduled to work with, but I’ve been struggling to make even the most basic connection with anyone. Except Sai. Maybe I’m wholly aloof and a little weird. Once, I accidentally towed a golf cart straight into a lake. Often, the morning country club crew leaves F-grade porn mags in my locker — probably as punishment for making everyone’s jobs more difficult. I think I have a bad nickname or two.
Sai is shorter than me, but walks like he is taller. I always try to emulate his walk — it just has a confident roll to it. His parents moved to Texas with newborn Sai from New Delhi. We talk about our ancestral homes a lot — India for him and Italy for me. That’s where the old country friends are, we agree. Our home away from home is drinking beer in a golf cart. Twisting open a Shiner Bock on a broiling Texas afternoon, cicadas sizzling in the trees, turns you into a true, golden Texan.
We load up coolers with Shiner, and take them out for a golf run. I say random shit and Sai understands.
He drums the wheel and I hammer the dash with my fingertips. One of our favorite albums (I don’t know anyone else who’s even heard of it) is Goldfly by Guster and each song has this exciting, cascading waterfall of bongos that we love. We sing “Airport Song” a cappella in the cart over and over, building to our own version of Guster’s bongo crescendo by thumping the plastic rain guards of the cart top.
Lately though, I’ve felt a looming sense of doom.
Sai and I are graduating and headed to college, and he’s the only meaningful friend in my whole damn life. I have this nagging voice buzzing in my head telling me it is all going away.
I have other friends, sure, but they are all like fireflies flashing in and out of my life. They jet around, make jokes, and invite me to house parties, but no conversation we have ever feels like it will last. Each interaction is just a dull yellow blink. When Sai and I talk, I feel like we are going to be friends for as long as my brain can function.
One afternoon, hot as goddamn demon’s breath, we play a round. I land four or five killer putts. The course is mostly empty, so we veer off to grab some shade in the cart and twist open a brew. The beer glugs in the bottle as it goes down. On a 100-degree day in Texas, it tastes like drinking melted gold.
Out of nowhere, a pelican lands in front of us. I’m talking a ready-for-David-Attenborough-voiceover, Jurassic Park-era ocean bird, using its sharp beak to scratch his belly. The kind of bird you’d see chugging fish on a buoy.
“What the fuck?!” says Sai, asking Mother Nature to explain what this waterbird is suddenly doing in the middle of landlocked Plano, Texas.
Which is when the bird turns, pointing its butt at us. Let’s not waste any time, it must have been thinking, because shit erupts from its ass like a hot, white sparkler. It spews for a solid 20 seconds. The sidewalk looks like an F-1 Bomber carrying missiles made of Wite-Out crashed. I spew my beer out, near death from laughing. Sai laughs so hard he starts coughing like a smoker.
The bird cocks its head to the side to look at us, a surprisingly majestic gesture for an animal that just Bob Rossed the concrete with diarrhea. He trots off.
The golf cart flies through the air.
“Holy shiiiiiiiiiit,” I shout, moving through time in slow-motion, and we come down hard on the neatly-tended 18th green.
The cart slams, breaking apart like a toy; it rips a panel out of their expensive grass the size of a door. Somehow, Sai and I both land on the ground ass-first. We roll around on the green, our stomachs turning because we speed-bagged our testicles. Again, we can’t stop laughing.
They call me the next afternoon to fire me.
I drive over to Sai’s house with a six-pack. He is home for the summer, after year one of college in Denver. We hug, holding it for a minute; the memory of the Jurassic pelican, I swear, syncs up in our brains, like a shared energy. We pull back, look at each other for a second and immediately start laughing. He slaps my shoulder.
Somewhere in between the bird incident, the memories of roaring golf carts, and the beer pooling in my head I feel an anxious pull of gravity inside me: Is this it? Are we doomed to catch-up meetings where we pull up old memories?
Then time slows again. There’s the mist from the beer as he twists off the top, frisbees it onto the table.
“What’s the plan now?” He asks, taking a sip.
“What, you mean, with everything?”
“Yeah man,” he laughs.
“Honestly, I’m not sure.” I fiddle with the ram’s head bottle cap on the table between us.
He shrugs. He’s not judging: We can fly around, land, fire out whatever’s going on inside of us, take off again, and it’s going to be fine. There’s no boundaries of time because the friends — the real ones that you know forever — won’t blink in and out.