He called me Calladito
We had a literature class together. I sat in the back, was quietly studious, took proper notes and tried to pay attention to the lecture. But most of the time, I was paying attention to him. His name was Ehecatl Raimundo Diaz. Everyone called him Ray. I called him Ehecatl. His father was a brilliant, iconoclastic professor of history in Mexico. Ehecatl's hair was black and glossy and waved back gently from his forehead. His skin was the color of caramels. His smile was quick and infectious. I'd write his name in the margins of my notes, then blush and make excuses if anyone asked me to borrow them.
I saw him three times a week for an hour in that class, and I'd sit there watching him furtively, half-sick with adolescent fantasies. The rest of the week, my concentration would get broken by sudden thoughts of him. I'd torture myself wondering what his hair smelled like. I would have failed that class if it were anything else but Shakespeare.
As it was, I was getting an A. The Professor wasn't too particular about class participation and my papers and in-class essays evidently met his standards. He'd post scores on his classroom door and my heart would race as I approached. I'd think that this time my careful study of Ehecatl would result in my failure and humiliation, but each time I'd pull through with more than acceptable marks.
One afternoon, stuck in my private reverie, I took longer to exit the classroom than usual when I noticed that Ehecatl and I were alone. He smiled at me and I looked at the floor. He approached. I could hear my own heartbeat and my mouth went dry as he got nearer. He said, "Hey."
"Hey," I mumbled, staring at a blank sheet of paper.
"You don't talk much in class."
"No. I don't have much to say."
He winked at me, "But you always get top marks. I think you have a lot to say, if anyone listened" You don't fool me," he leaned over close and whispered, "You're a deep one, calladito."
My ears felt hot and there was a funny tightness in my chest.
Ehecatl leaned closer still until his lips were nearly grazing my ears and whispered, "Literature isn't my real strength. I'm feeling a little lost. Maybe someday you and I could study."
He pulled back and gave me a searching look. His eyes reminded me of amber or wildflower honey.
"We could meet in the library," I said hesitantly.
"I know a place where the wild thyme grows," he recited. There was a dimple on left cheek that was only apparent when he grinned broadly like he was grinning then.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream. But we're studying the Tempest."
"Ah, Calladito, thou art a spirit too delicate! What I mean is there's this wood behind campus and off the trails there's this meadow with a pond as clear as a mirror. When the sun goes down the pond glows almost like it's on fire. It's my secret place. But I can't think of a better place to study Shakespeare."
"Okay. When do you--"
"This afternoon would be good," he said, "I could pack us some sandwiches and we'll watch the fire-pond while we discuss poor, enslaved Callisto."
"Caliban," I said distractedly.
"See! That's why I need to pick your brain."
We met a little after five that evening. He brought sandwiches; serrano ham on rustic bread. He offered me one and said, "These are much better than that crap they serve in the cafeteria."
We walked through the wood together. He chatted amiably and I mostly listened, every now and then supplying a small detail about myself. We came to the meadow and it was just as he said, full of wildflowers in the long glass. In the middle there was a pond so clear and still it looked like a mirror. I ran to the pond, kicked off my shoes and socks and stood at the edge, staring down until I could tell which was water and which was sky. The cool water lapped against my bare feet. Ehecatl stood behind me, laughing a little, good-naturedly.
We ate our sandwiches and shared a thermos of strong, sugary coffee with milk. We sat for a while in companionable silence and watched the brilliant, fiery colors appear on the surface of the pond which rippled slightly with the evening breeze.
After the show I turned to him and asked, "So, what part of the Tempest is giving you trouble?"
The sun had gone down behind the trees that ringed the meadow. His wildflower honey eyes seemed to burn like wildfire in the dusky half-light.
"Calladito," he said, "I don't need help with literature."
There was a nakedness to his gaze, a longing that I could not misinterpret. But when he grabbed my shoulders and kissed me hard on the mouth, I was surprised and sagged against him. My knees felt as if they were going to buckle. He unbuttoned his shirt and pulled my hands inside it. I ran my hands over his smooth skin, tangled my fingers in the few silky strands of hair that coiled on his chest. He undressed me, deftly and swiftly. My skin tingled where his long fingers touched me. He held me at arm's length and gazed at me appraisingly in the waning light before embracing me. He led my hands down over the tightness of his stomach to the damp, coarse hairs that poked out from the waistband of his pants. I unbuckled his belt. He pushed me onto my back in the long grass. The earth was still wet from the spring rains and a dense smell rose up from it and the crushed grass beneath me. He fell upon me. He covered me in the darkness of his skin. I bit his shoulder. I kissed his neck again and again and again. He rolled me over, we tumbled over in the grass until he was on his back and I found myself astride him. I dug my knees into his side. I arched my back like a cat. The stars above were brilliant and bright and burned in the sky. I felt dizzy, I felt like I could fall into that burning, turbulent night sky. I clawed at the ground. I clutched him to me like he was my anchor. Then I closed my eyes against vertigo. I trembled and shook and said a solitary word, "Oh."
A moment later, I heard him cry out and he shuddered against me. I fell forward, onto him. We lay there in the grass, legs and arms overlapping for a while. The moon began to crest over the trees. His skin, damp with sweat from exertion, glistened and shone. He sat up and smiled lazily.
"You have never done this before," he asked, "I mean with a man?"
I shook my head no. I had never done that with anyone. In the darkness he could not see me blush.
"You are very sweet," he said and tenderly brushed the back of his hand over my cheek, "I'm glad it was with me."
He leaned over and gave me a quick peck on the lips. He tasted like smoke and salt.
"Look, I've got to go," he said, almost apologetically, "Will you be okay?"
"I'll be fine," I replied. He stood up, pulled his pants up over his narrow hips, buttoned three buttons on his shirt and slid it on. I lay in the grass staring up at the stars for a long time before going back to the dorms.
"What have you been up to?" my roommate smirked
My cheeks were flushed and my lips were swollen. The hems of my jeans were wet and stinking of mud and algae. I had raised, red angry-looking welts on my arms where tiny things had bitten me. There was grass in my hair. I put my face in my hands. They smelled like sweat and pond water and a little like bleach.
"n-nothing," I stammered through my fingers.
"Nothing? Nothing looks like it was a lot of fun," he chuckled to himself.
I pushed past him into the bathroom and ran the shower for a long time before finally stepping into the veil of steaming water.
"No one can know," Ehecatl said the next time he saw me. I was heading to class with an armful of books when he came behind me, grabbed my shoulder and led me into one of the shaded doorways of the Humanities building.
"Whatever we are to each other, whatever happened, no one can know about it. My father would not understand."
I nodded. I wanted to ask him what we were to each other, but he clapped me on the back and smiled and said, "Good," the relief in his voice was immediate, "good, I knew you'd understand."
"I-" I began.
"We should get together and study some more sometime," there was a furtive slyness in his phrasing.
I nodded again. He smiled again. Then he was gone. The books I was carrying felt heavy and useless. I wanted to drop them there on the green lawn. I wanted to watch them tumble downwards from my hands, their pages fluttering in the morning breeze. Instead, I clutched them to my chest and headed to class.
My mouth was dry, and when I stopped at a chipped porcelain fountain for a drink, the cool, coppery water reminded me of a shallow pond lapping at its shore and his taste.
And after that, he would call for me, or come to me, or leave a note on my door. "Study" was our code word. It was never a regular thing with him. Sometimes as long as two weeks would go by without so much as a word. Sometimes he'd want to see me every day. It was always the same; we would go to that meadow in the woods behind campus and sit at the edge of the pond and wait for the sun to go down.
There, in the dark with him, I would bite my lips and become speechless when our shared need would rise with the moon.
"Do you want this?" He'd ask. I could only nod my head vigorously and reach for him. My only sounds hot little puffs of breath on his neck and my racing heart and the inevitable sharp gasp before I would shudder and tremble then lie still in the long grass.
"Calladito," he would murmur afterwards while lighting a cigarette, "You are lovely."
I could only sigh while watching his smoke trail upwards in the dark. I wanted to say I love you. I wanted to tell him not to go; I wanted him to stay with me until dawn. But inevitably, he would stretch, button his pants, pull his shirt over his head and walk away from me, towards the city lights. I would watch his silhouette cross the meadow until it disappeared into the dark line of the trees.
There was so much more I wanted, but I never knew how to ask for it.
During the summer break, he returned to Mexico to do an internship with a colleague of his father. It's August now, school's been in session for almost two weeks and I haven't seen more than a passing glimpse of him. No notes have been left in my mailbox.
This morning, I left one in his. I scrawled "help me study" on a yellow piece of college-lined paper and left it for him unsigned.
It's almost dark. The cattails sway in the summer breeze and the frogs croak goodnight. Crickets are beginning to chirp their insistent love songs. The shadows have lengthened and stretched and the sky is bleeding red and gold. Soon, the first stars will appear on the horizon at the edge of night.
He'll come for me. I know he will. He has to.
This time, in the darkness, I will not be silent.