The summer I turned 16 I crushed hard on a skinny Spanish boy with messy light brown hair and hazel eyes. Sergio was one of several students in a 4-week English language program. He stayed with a family from church like the other students.
My family hosted Iván, a 6-foot tall 16-year-old from Asturias in the north. Through the month of July we tried to help him work on his English skills. Sometimes it didn’t work and we’d end up making fun of the way he commanded us to quit teasing. “Eh-stop!” That just made us laugh more. When Iván returned to Asturias, he told us “te voy a hechar de menos” (I’ll miss you). I didn’t know what the phrase meant at the time, but now like it more than the more simple verb extrañar.
In the mornings, Iván, Sergio and their peers took English classes. In the afternoon they were free to hang out with their host families, go on beach trips, go to the mall or simply hang out in someone’s pool.
One afternoon after summer school, Danny borrowed my mom’s Durango and we drove Sergio and Iván to the Guitar Center in West Covina. Sergio wanted to buy a guitar. I jumped at the chance to go as I’d already decided that I sorta liked Sergio.
Danny drove down the streets playing KROQ just loud enough for us to hear the music but now drown out the conversation. I sat in the back seat and stared out the window at car dealerships, banks and fast food restaurants. One song ended and the next began. Without thinking, I sang along to Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Soul to Squeeze”.
I noticed Sergio singing too.
Where I go I just don’t know
I might end up somewhere in Mexico
When I find my peace of mind
I’m gonna keep you ’til the end of time
He caught our simultaneous sing along and smiled at me. I blushed like the smitten almost-16 year old I was.
When I got home, I called my friend Janine (she was hosting a Spanish student too) and told her all about how I was sure Sergio smiled at me and our mutual like of a hit single by one of the most popular bands of the day meant something. My crush intensified.
I spent the next few weeks making up excuses to go to Janine’s house (she lived near Sergio’s host family) or Sergio’s host family. It soon became clear Sergio wasn’t interested in me. He just wanted to play his guitar. Plus, he smoked.
My crush was over faster than a monarch’s lifespan.
At the end of July, Sergio, Iván and the rest of the exchange students returned to Spain. I continued my ho-hum summer of band practice, summer school and babysitting.
Fifteen years after the moment with Sergio, “Soul to Squeeze” was the first song that came to mind when I thought of summer music memories.