I was going through the drive-through in a place about as far away from the ocean as you can get when the voice through the speaker asked if I wanted it large-sized. I must have heard that question over a thousand times in my nefarious career as a drive-through junkie, but something about this time brought tingles of salt in sunburned creases and that special parchedness in the back of the throat that comes from a day spent body surfing at Bellows or Sherwood Forrest beaches on Oahu.
“So what part of Hawaii are you from?” I asked when I got to the window. She was young, barely out of high school, and by her expression you’d have thought I’d pulled a rabbit out of a hat.
“Uh, Honolulu,” she said, giving me the eye.
More like Papakoleʻa or Nanakule, I thought. But I understood. Honolulu’s easier.
She handed me my large drink. “How did you know?”
“Just something you said reminded me of home.”
She tilted her head, thinking back. Before we could speak more, there were other cars and customers, and the moment passed like so many random encounters do.
As the golden arches receded in the rearview mirror, the cold sweetness leapt from the straw to the back of my throat, cooling and soothing just like it used to after a day at the beach in Waimanalo. For a moment I was eighteen again, driving my old Camaro past the ironwood trees, windows down and damp towels on the seats, singing along to Kalapana on the radio while my sister dug through the glove box scrounging change so we could hit a drive-through and grab a soda for the long drive home around Makapuʻu Point. As I sipped, I could almost smell the ocean and taste the salt on the wind.
Pretty cool trick for a buck twenty-five paper cup of ice, sugar, and fizz.