Carlos was waiting for me when I left the radio station, his perfect hair blowing in the desert breeze, his incredible smile flashing in my direction. He was holding a flower -- a waterlily. When I reached him, he took my hand (he was touching my hand!) and placed the flower on my palm.
"But Carlos," I said, "where did you find a waterlily in the desert?"
"The waterlily isn't real, Cecil," he told me, his voice rich, and musical. "I've tested it with scientific equipment. It's only a mirage. But it made me think of an oasis in the desert. It reminded me of you."
"Oh, Carlos," I said, the words that are my non-wheat-based bread and butter temporarily deserting me.
We watched as the white flower evaporated against our crossed palms, mine dark, his a shade or two lighter, gone as if it had never existed. Which it hadn't, of course.
Carlos took my empty hand in his. "Cecil," he said. "Cecil."
"What is it, Carlos?" I asked, looking up into his beautiful dark eyes.
There was a look in those eyes, and in the set of his square, chiseled jaw, that reminded me of the look he sometimes wears when he does his scientific experiments: curious, but also afraid. He leaned forward. His lips touched mine. His perfect, perfect hair brushed against my cheek.
Listeners, I could hardly breathe. Carlos was kissing me. Silently, I thanked the Apache Tracker, lying cold and still in the Night Vale morgue across from the Ralph's. Even if he was a racist bigot, that moment would not have been possible without him. I felt as if Old Woman Josie's angels were smiling down on us, but of course angels do not exist, so it was probably only the Sheriff's Secret Police, watching us from behind their hidden surveillance cameras.
Carlos drew back, still holding my hand in his, a rueful smile playing on his beautifully shaped mouth. "I think this might be the least strange, but the third most terrifying thing that has happened to me since I came to Night Vale, Cecil," he said.
I reached out, and at last fulfilled my year-long dream of brushing my fingers through his flawless, amazing hair. "I know exactly how you feel, Carlos," I told him.