Jump to the first story
“Oh…no, go ahead.” Yuma turned her face toward the voice in time to see the back of his head as he bent over to stow a backpack under the seat. The empty seat beside her was suddenly overflowing with warmth. His shoulders were broad beneath the waffle-weave shirt. His amber colored hair covered his neck and brushed at his shoulders.
“Man, am I glad there was an empty seat.” Straightening he smiled, raking his hand through his hair. Yuma wished her hair would fall in such full waves around her face. “I missed my tour bus back.” He scratched the beginnings of a beard then stroked downward as if to smooth it into place. “Hi. I’m Eirik.” He offered his hand.
“Yuma.” Eirik’s firm handshake warmed her, his skin just rough enough to prove he had no fear of manual labor.
“Great name! Very visual.” His smile brightened the gray day. “And I’ll bet there’s a story behind it.”
“Come on.” He turned slightly toward her and pushed his shoulders against the bus seat as if settling into an overstuffed chair. “Tell me a story.”
“I was conceived in a rest stop outside Yuma, Arizona,” she blurted without a second thought. “In my parents’ younger days, they traveled around a bit in a VW bus.”
“Wow.” He thumped his chest with his fist. “That’s a great story. It has lust, adventure, romance and love all compacted into two sentences.”
What was this little flutter Yuma felt in her chest? His description sounded exactly the way she had always felt about her beginnings into this world. She stared into eyes, the same amber color as his hair. Although he had to be at least ten years her junior, his eyes were ageless, old and knowing, youthful and laughing. Her heart overrode her head with the notion she’d known these eyes forever.
“What about Eirik? Is there a story behind your name?”
“It’s a Norse name.” He laughed. “That creates a picture, doesn’t it? But the only story is the one I’m creating.” He looked around her and out the window. The bus pulled away from the parking lot. “Tulum was great. So many revenants standing guard on their history, overlooking the sea.”
“You believe in ghosts?”
His gaze swept her face. He traced her lips, looked at each of her eyes. A slow smile blanketed his face. “You do, too.”
Maybe she did. She had never considered the subject beyond the Hollywood movie, rattling chain kind. Why hadn’t she looked among the broken stones to see the ghosts of Tulum?
“Tulum.” He rested his head against the top of the seat and stared into the air above them. “A visual. Large transparent circle with a solid tower rising out of it in a swoop, spreading at the top and disappearing from sight.” Yuma stared at him while he drew the vision with his hands. She smelled the dust of the ruins and a warm woodsy scent rise from his skin. Gazing into the air he drew his vision from, she wondered what he’d been smoking.
“Words are great, aren’t they? Some words evoke great shapes. Like Tulum.”
“Yeah, some words take shape. For instance, mellow looks like a double camel’s hump. Cracker is a little jagged point and then two larger jagged points and then a splintered line. Laughter is a round exploding circle with a dangling tail.”
Yuma laughed. “I’m sorry.” She laughed more. “You’re a little crazy.”
He laughed with her. “Yeah, but you’re the only one who knows.” He touched her arm. “Really, you’re the only person I’ve ever told. Some words have shape. I see them.”
His hand slid down her arm and back to his lap. Feathery ripples followed in the wake of his fingertips. Yuma thought his hand could’ve stayed on her arm longer.
He leaned in closer. “And some words have stories. Entire stories in one word. Like Yuma.”
“Complete stories?” She breathed deeply, inhaling his scent. Her peripheral vision closed to a pinpoint filled with Eirik’s face and the amber color of his hair.
“Not always. Stories in the works. Stories unfolding.”
“So the story of Yuma is still unfolding?”
“I think there are whole blank pages to fill.” He laughed. “How inventive did your parents get with your siblings names?”
“I have one sister we call Setty, short for Settled.”
“Oh, poor Setty.” He chuckled.
“Yes, well, she is their testament to giving up the bus and finding roots.”
“And does Setty live up to her name?”
“Rooted.” Her sister had always been the straight and narrow, stay at home kind. “Do you think it was pre-destination?”
“How can we say?”
Eirik reached under his seat and pulled a bottle of water from his pack. “Drink?”
His lips were wet and glistening as he replaced the cap. A small water drop hung from the corner of his mouth, and she imagined wiping the droplet with her finger, feeling the wet softness. He brushed his fingertips across his lips and winked at her before turning his attention to the tops of the ruins peeking above the trees. Yuma wondered if he read her mind. Her face flushed warm as the two English sisters peered at her from the front of the bus. She couldn’t hear what Franco said; the blood rushing to her head was too noisy. Or was that the engine of the bus coming to life?
The bus bumped onto the main road.
“That was great!” Eirik turned in his seat to get one last look at the ruins before they disappeared behind a thick leafy barricade. He smiled, nodding his head as if bidding farewell to unseen friends. “Silent to all but those who hear.” Reaching under his seat he replaced the water bottle in his backpack.
“And what do you hear?” Yuma asked.
“I could say the lives of those before me, but I think it’s more my own inner voice ricocheting off the generations.” He shook his head, and she wanted to touch his hair. “Yuma, you make me say things I say to no one else. Are you a witch?”
“I could be a witch.” Witch and bewitching. This young man with exotic ideas thinks she’s a witch. Could she weave a lusty spell? She wondered what shape he would give to lust.
“I think you are. You know me, and we’ve only just met. It’s difficult to get past the lust and see it, but I’m sure we know each other quite well.”
The witch was an amber-haired man who read minds. “Lust?”
“Lust for life. People who travel alone, especially during the holidays, are adventure seekers, overcome with too much lust to share their road with less romantic souls.”
What if a like romantic soul came along? Could you know someone in a half dozen sentences, have doors open that you had been banging on for years then put to words your vague ideas? Yuma stared into his serious ageless eyes. Romance and romantic. Love and lust. Words with shapes. Now that she understood there were blank pages of her life, it would be easy to write. Easier than erasing – which was what she had been attempting to do. Lust for life.
“Where are you, Yuma?”
“I’m…thinking.” She’d lost her lust somewhere. “The shape of –”
“Lust?” He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “An opaque bubble, opaque because it’s filled with white smoke.” He opened one eye like a young, cute Popeye and smiled. “Go ahead. Try to see it.”
Yuma leaned her head back and closed her eyes. A gigantic bubble floated overhead, the white smoke swirling inside. It fit. She stepped gently into the smoke. When the bus slowed and came to a stop, her eyes remained shut and her hearing deaf to Franco’s words. She felt Eirik stir beside her then his mouth against her ear.
He stood and nodded toward the window. She looked out to a bus stop on the main street of a busy Mexican village. As she opened her mouth to question, he appeared outside below the window. The bus groaned as the driver shifted to pull away from the stop. Eirik made writing motions in the air, and she read his lips, “keep writing.” Blowing her a kiss and waving, he disappeared in a faint cloud of dust as the bus pulled away.