Ehecatl gripped my hand firmly, as if a wind was going to rise up across the prairie to snatch me away. We ran. We tramped dry, tall grass beneath our feet. It crackled like a campfire and whipped me across the face and forearms. Hand and in hand we raced across the field with only the snapping grass sounds, the hum of summer insects and our own breath until Ehecatl pulled us to a stop. “Here.” He said, panting only a little from the exertion. “It’s far enough from the highway. We stop here.”
A bright stitch of pain arced up my left side. I let go of his hand to shove unruly curls back from my forehead. I only yelped a little when Ehecatl put both hands on my chest and shoved me. I fell backwards, onto the grass. He straddled me, his silhouette a man-shaped darkness against the shattered brilliance of the night sky. He grabbed my face. “Look up,” he said. “It starts soon.”
Sure enough, the first shooting star flashed above us as he slid down my body, unbuttoned my shirt, planted kisses everywhere there was exposed flesh. “Oh,” I said as another seemed to tumble from the heavens. “You’re going to miss this.”
He fumbled with my belt. “I’ve already seen the perseids.”
When I arched my back with mounting pleasure, both at his mouth and in wonder at the meteor shower, he turned his head to spit on the ground and said, “This is how the world began.”
It rained the whole week I was in Scotland. Ehecatl was doing a year’s stint as a visiting lecturer at Glasgow University. We hadn’t seen each other in five. He met me at the airport. He had on a wool coat, owlish glasses, and a crooked grin. The coat and the glasses were new and conveyed respectability, but the smile didn’t. I held out my hand to be shaken, he pulled me into a hug that was far too brief. Our bodies did not quite make contact. The trip was delineated by galleries, coffee, and unbearable nearness.
We saw the Kelvingrove, and the stately graves of the Glasgow Necropolis. We spent an hour in the cathedral at arm’s length apart. He slept on the couch. He insisted that I take his bed. The blanket I tucked up to my chin smelled of detergent, and not Ehecatl.
On the last day, we walked along the Clyde, huddled close together beneath his umbrella. He kissed me on the nose. He said almost sheepishly, “The weather isn’t always like this.”
I kissed him back. On the mouth. Hard. He did not draw away. “It isn’t?”
That crooked grin again. “No. I think it’s this way because you’re leaving.”
We are riding the Ferris wheel at Santa Monica. Andrew and I sit too close, and a woman on vacation from somewhere back east looks clearly uncomfortable as we hold hands. We don’t care, just married grins are wide across both of our faces, and we kiss at the apex. The lights of Los Angeles glitter and reflect in the surf below. When we get off the ride, the woman hurries away and does not look back.
Still holding hands, Andrew and I walk through throngs of people. He sniffs the air. “Hey, you want cotton candy?”
“Yes.” I say, although I hate eating it. The smell rises sweetly above the sea salt. At the booth, the attendant passes my husband a pink cloud of sugar as big as my head. I smile at Andrew and take in the laughter, the sound of the carousel, and the smell of nostalgia.
“Cotton candy smells like being a kid.” I say.
Andrew does his best cowboy accent. “Smells like the travelling circus and the county fair, I reckon.” Then as an afterthought, “Pardner.”
I hit him softly on the shoulder. “Shut up.”
Then I catch sight of a byronic figure leaning against the railing in a wool coat far too heavy for the California weather. It can’t be, I think. But it is. Seven years older, and looking distinguished at the edges is Ehecatl. He smiles that crooked grin. His dark eyes gleam like stars.
He passes me, nods at Andrew and disappears into the crowd.
“Who was that?” Andrew asks, as he leans the cotton candy in my direction.
“No one,” I say. And take a bite of a cloud.