Dollar Sweet Tea


by Taylor Wyna


Sunglasses are permanently clasped to the bridge of our noses. Our final day of recovery begins as Kristin’s silver Nissan wanes through the drive thru like an Alabama moon. Sitting in the passenger seat I can still hear the ringing from the speakers, the dreamers, the summertime believers. Even now, if I closed my eyes in just the right light, I could see all the different stages. The concerts, the weekend, had resembled some Atlantian dream, from the way we munched on overpriced corndogs, to watching Florence Welch twirl across the stage in her fluorescent jade dress.

When our car rolls up Kristin sticks her head out of the window, shading her glasses from the impending sun, “Two large, sweet teas,” she calls for as I reach for the glovebox change. This order is a tradition, a mantra for when the heat becomes too much, for when sunblock and air conditioners are agitators not protectors.

There’s a beat on the other side — the moment between repetition or confirmation, “That’ll be 8.34,” the cashier says through his little boom box.

It’s the first time that day we both let our glasses fall to the tip of your nose, “8 dollars!?” we enunciate.  In my hand the glovebox change rattles against the beats of the radio while we calculate the expenses of fast food. “Hell,” Kristin says, “We might as well call ‘em back and save money by getting the freaking happy meal!” The more you stew, the more the absurdity grows, how do these birds in the gulf not know about dollar sweet teas?

When the window slides open there’s a kid on the other side. There’s an endless stream that glistens the back of his neck, and before he can greet us with feux pleasantries Kristin speaks up, “Hello, uh — sir,” the two stare at each other for a moment. She’s hardly a ma’am and he certainly isn’t a sir yet, “How are you doing today?”

His smile curves like the golden arches printed on his tee, “Y’all really wanna know?” Kristin turns and we both stare at each other, wondering what other secrets these Gulfers have. There’s a short fizz of laughter that settles in my throat as we both turn back to the kid — by now we’ve forgotten our right to a dollar sweet tea.

We watch the kid lean far out of the window, moving his microphone past his red and grey baseball cap, “It’s hot as f—”


 

Taylor Wyna is a Magic City writer whose work has been featured in Aura Literary Arts Review and The Birmingham News. She is the Founder and EIC of Camellias, a Southern Regional magazine dedicated to the modern Southern woman. Say ‘hi’ on Twitter @TayyWyna