34 /365: stardust on the hood of your car
“Name the one moment that you knew, for whatever reason, you were going to be okay. Whatever happened to you, you just knew that you nothing could touch you.”
“That isn’t easy. I have to think about that.”
“It’s not supposed to be easy. You picked this game, remember?”
“Yeah, I remember. Serves me right… okay. I think I’ve got it. Do you remember that time we went stargazing in Norfolk?”
“Well, that’s it. That’s the moment that I remember feeling untouchable.”
“What do you mean? How can you say that? We were two undetectable blips in the middle of space observing giant balls of gas trillions of times our size. Nothing should make you feel more temporary—changeable.”
“I don’t know. It’s just how I feel. It was the first time we were alone, and you drove us out to this field I’m sure nobody had been to in fifty years. I remember we had to stop for deer a few times before we even got out of the car. And they just took their time crossing the street, like they knew they had to stop us from rushing it.
“When we got there, the sun had just set—you could tell because the western half of the sky was still navy blue—not quite black yet. Anyway, it was just us on the hood of the car. For all I know, we were the only people for miles. You turned the headlights off, and I could tell that something amazing was going to happen.
“I hadn’t known you then, so I remember asking myself ‘Is this his thing? Stargazing? Is he going to try to read my horoscope or something?’’ Of course, I was right—about the stargazing. I don’t think you even know how to read a horoscope unless it’s printed in the New York Times.”
“Sorry—but it’s true. You’re plenty good at lots of other things. Back to the story, I remember that we were holding hands and I was in heaven. Nobody had ever held my hand like that before. And then, of course, we had that enthralling conversation about different constellations. I wanted to know why Orion needed a belt in the first place. It was space. His pants weren’t going anywhere. And you brought up a very good point about Cassiopeia. Much along the same lines—how could anyone make a chair that was ‘upside-down’ in space, much less cling to it for eternity?
“And the next bit, I can recall with absolute precision. We let the conversation slip out, up into the sky for all I know, and just lay on the hood of the car for an hour. And then, as if this thought slapped you on the face, you stared even more intently at the sky and proclaimed:
‘It is so ignorant for any astronomer––even the early ones––to consider anything out there to be ‘upside-down’. I mean, there is this enormous universe, miles and miles beyond anything we can even comprehend, let alone touch. And humanity still has the audacity to consider all of it as if it were in relation to us or made for us.’
“And that’s the moment I felt untouchable. You put it all into perspective for me. You said that the universe was chaotic—nothing is really mapped out, much less with any consideration toward humans. Yet here we were—we weren’t stardust or magma or llamas. Every random occurrence led up to that moment on the hood of your car. And I just knew that if every thing that ever happened brought us this far, that we could do the rest ourselves.”
“Yes, I know. It’s profound. You probably remember it as the night you got lucky in the middle of a field, but it was the moment that put everything into perspective for me. Simone de Beauvoir herself could not have written a better existentialist love story.”
“Don’t worry about it. Your turn.”