When We Went to 1989

Poppies and WD-40, Chloe Moulin

I remember when Julia and I hopped a wall by the river to recreate her parents’ wedding day. The only thing between us and that convent courtyard was a three-foot stone wall with spike-wired bars. We were bored and sad and talking about the moments we remember, even if they didn’t happen to us. I told Julia about the time my mother found out she was pregnant with my brother a week after she caught my father cheating on her with her best friend and she just cried and cried as she vacuumed the hallway in the house we could not afford in 2008. Just moments ago, my wrist was at the steering wheel and our seats were leaned back a couple clicks too far. My head was propped on my hand, elbow resting on the open window and a strand of hair tickled my ear. Julia was playing punk from her California days with the wind whooshing and she told me about the time her mother and father got married at an old convent on the San Antonio river, “They had a mariachi band and everything, I can even hear it.” We wanted to live it, we wanted to know what it was like to be in love in 1989 San Antonio.

         It’s 2am and we get a head rush when McCullough becomes Downtown, look there’s an open spot to park on the bridge. The gear strikes P and we start running down the stairs, we can hear the band beckoning us, maybe this is what it’s like. Once we get down the concrete steps by the river, we notice the way the lit windows flicker like the chills between our shoulder blades, as if we struck the lighter and nothing happened. We sense an in between-ness with our toes tucked under the metal bars on top of the stone wall, our heads just hovering over the top spikes.

         In a steady and soft voice, Julia says, “This is it. Look, right there under the gazebo was the dancefloor and over there under the trees was the mariachi band and I bet my mom couldn’t stop dancing.”

         “Let’s go in,” I say while pointing to a broken chunk of the wall, snug by a thick tree trunk. 

Julia helps me hop over first since we both know I’m the least coordinated one—she holds my ass while I swing a leg over the spikes, ignoring the sharp pain on my inner thighs. I wrap my arms around the tree and hop down onto the stone courtyard. I look around if anyone saw, then hold Julia’s hand while she does the same. Swing, wrap, hop.

“It’s so quiet,” she says as she floats her feet to the gazebo. I stay by the edge of the courtyard by our tree to watch her go back to 1989. Now that we hopped the wall, we can see the convent more clearly. About fifty feet in front of us, the convent hovers over the courtyard with lights coming through the trees behind us, dancing on the stone walls. The courtyard is littered with trees, stones circling their bases to create patches of flowers; some with vines climbing up the trunks. I found myself weaving through the trees, giving hello’s and how are ya’s to Julia’s uncles and Abuela and Meemaw while Julia made her way to the dancefloor in the gazebo. I can see the outline of her lanky body pacing on the wooden floor. 

We both feel a tug that brings us to the middle of the courtyard where the mariachi band is playing. I know Julia’s eyes are damp even though her face is turned from me as she circles the large tree in the middle of the courtyard. I press PLAY on my phone and manifest the mariachi band that Julia’s mother loved so much. 

Julia whips her head to me, “Thank you.” 

“Ai, ai,” I start popping my hips side to side with the rhythm of the band, snaps daring Julia to smile. We cha-cha to the gazebo, her mom summoning us to dance with her. A sigh pounds out of us as we fall to the ground and look up where the beams meet in the middle, holding a delicate lantern. Our sweaty skins are sticking to the pollen-coated wooden floor, but all we can feel is the lace of the wedding dress rustle by after every click of her heel. 


About the Author

Ebbi Bowen · Trinity University

Ebbi Bowen is a Russian-American writer and recent undergraduate from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. They were inspired by San Antonio when they wrote “When We Went to 1989,” which first appeared in The Trinity Review.

About the Artist

Chloe Moulin · University of Vermont

Chloe is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Vermont. After graduating and earning my BS this May, she will be attending the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine to pursue her PhD in biomedical science. She will also be continuing her artwork, and continuing to explore the fusion of art and science. This piece first appeared in The Gist.

No Comments

Leave a Reply