It's seven years on now and we're married. I tell her stories about how she was in high school, she laughs and says "I was really like that?" I miss the old Ether sometimes, the girl who walked on clouds and at the edges of philosophy. She made life surreal, an experience. This Ether I love too, but in a different way. I would say better, because I know I will love her forty years from now and will always depend on her.
My life is settled, to a degree. We have children, two girls. I work all week editing consumer reports for grammatical and factual accuracy. Very boring and tedious, but, the desk is clean, there's a chair, the boss and coworkers are easy-going. Ether plays housewife and working mom, staffing a catering company four days a week. It's not the greatest existence, no, not great. But there's hope for improvement and advancement. We're just another two people scrambling for a decent life; no worst than most, better than some. Twice a month we go to the State Park and hike its trails.
Ether darted off the path. I was caught off guard, and struggled through the foliage to follow her. She was climbing up a monstrous boulder, and urging me to follow.
"It'll be fun."
She was more energetic than me, by far.
At the top, I discovered a wide view of the forest valley below us. A spectacular view. Ether lay down on the smooth surface of the rock and gazed into the setting sun. I lay down beside her. Her hand entwined in mine.
"Let's watch the sunset."
The red-rifted sky turned deeper, the sphere of hydrogen how-many millions of miles away was creeping behind the Earth's shadow, slowly and surely, but it seemed as if my conscience slowed too, and I could sense the passing time in real time, and it was beautiful.
Ether whispered, "God made this, right?"
"Who knows?" I answered. "God might be a hoax. I don't think there's any proof that he exists or doesn't exist."
"God's not a guy, silly. He's just a reason. Why are things the way they are? God is why."
"And?" I wasn't really up to arguing the existence of an almighty or delve into religious conundrums.
"I'd give him an A+" And she rolled over on top of me and kissed me, like a lover. Her head buried into my chest and I stared beyond her head, into the sky.
…and I remembered, long ago, a morning sitting on a grass hill and watching cumulonimbus clouds on the horizon.