Was it ever so easy as walking down South Congress with interlaced fingers, sunglasses, cheap flip-flops that perfectly matched my dress, and pink toenails that you had graciously painted as a two-month anniversary present? The wind blowing our hair around. Ducking into that funky antique store and finding smoke gray cat-eye glasses you swore your grandmother had worn and those vintage cowboy boots, “a husky shade of red,” you said, even though you meant dusky. “Husky red” became the color of everything remotely red that day. Apples. Lipstick. Naugahyde seats in the booth where we ate enchiladas drenched with salsa rojo de husque (we debated the spelling for at least ten minutes). Dessert was topped with a husky red cherry, which you fed to me from a spoon. The sunset painted a husky red sky “for us,” you said. And we kissed in the grass of a Zilker Park soccer field, our lips a husky red.
When you had to leave for Oklahoma to run a combine for the wheat harvest with your father and brother, you offered to take me. Said we could share a cabin on your family’s land. Said I could paint all day and go to sleep in the crook of your shoulder every night. Said I could ride in the combine with you, go north with you all to Kansas. I wanted to go, wanted to wake up skin to skin every morning, but I was afraid. Of your family. Of a cabin in a field. Of playing house only two months after falling in love. I had no faith. In myself, mostly. In love, too, I suppose. It didn’t work for my parents, and I felt compelled to sneak up on the life of my dreams (my happily ever after?) like sneaking up on a rare and fragile butterfly. After I had the perfect the net, the perfect cage, the perfect everything in place. And I had nothing in place for that delicious pursuit with you.
The night before you drove away in that husky red El Camino of yours, I made love to you like I was casting a voodoo spell. I drank your kisses, memorized your silhouette, touched every line of your palms, and wished into your heart a sliver of my soul…the foundation of the perfect net. And as beautiful and languorous as our love-making had been in the night, it was frantic and feverish in the dim blue light of dawn. As I called out your name, tears ran down my face. This was you taking that sliver of soul, and the cost of it scared me, but I hoped it would necessarily bring you back to me.