I walked the narrow streets, occasionally tripping over the lace of my shoe. His jacket was shiny with wear, fit tight over his jeans. His delivery was practiced, pristine. We gathered around him, the tourists, all bright white sneakers, safari hats, tethered to our cameras where we recorded everything we were afraid to experience. Some of us even held hands.
We stopped at a café. The barista winced, pointed to our guide, told us of his unsavory nature. Called us fools for how much we paid him. He waited outside, pulled the cap over his eyes, lit a joint, and nodded with impeccable manners to passersby.
Later, I walked with him alone.
He said, with gravity, that the tide would be high that night and I nodded, noting the small road that separated us from the angry ocean. The sea was new to me and I felt the thrill. That evening I let him take me to his spiritual house where he offered me virgin cakes in honor of St. Agata. He anointed my head with his lips. He fingered a crumb and held it to my mouth. I felt like we were players in a skit that others were watching, perhaps admiring us. But no one else was there. I sipped my water. It tasted like chemicals.
When I thought of going home and crossing that ocean, I saw our plane in smoking shards, suitcases with the smoldering ephemera we convinced ourselves we could not live without. He touched the knuckles of his right hand to my face. I wondered about the others in my group at that moment, and how being loved was as new to me as not being loved. How turning away now would make me want to come back, until everything, old and used became new again.