We're lying in the grass beside the pool in my grandfather's yard. We're looking at the sky hanging over us as silence does the same. My back is twitching and my hand is itching as both rest in the grass. All I can feel are the bugs hopping through their own, tiny world. All I can hear is her breathing and the chirp of crickets. All I can see is the stars.
"Do you feel small?"
I look at her. Her eyes are fixed on a single star and her hair is draped around her neck. Her breathing is slow and soft.
"You heard me."
"You mean like when I look up at the stars? Of course. Doesn't everybody?"
She closes her eyes.
"I mean in general. In everyday life. Do you ever feel small?"
I can't fathom what she could mean. She knows it, too, and she's clearly disappointed. I can't help but disappoint her even more with my silence.
What does she want me to say? I do? I don't? That I'm confused?
"I guess," I mutter.
"I don't think I matter."
And what am I supposed to say to that?
Her eyes open and she locks her gaze onto that same point of light in the sky.
The emptiness of the world above us is matched only by the emptiness between us. I'm about to ask her if she's tired. If she wants to go home and get some sleep, or if she feels empty too, when I feel that emptiness broken, if only for a moment. Her fingers brush mine, and then her hand is gripping mine tightly.
A tear trickles down her cheek and into the grass beneath us. I want to wipe it away, but I don't. If I know her, I know that she wants to feel whatever it is that she's feeling. She wants to feel alive, even if it hurts.
I look back at the stars with her and see a shimmering movement off to one side of the sky.
"Is that a shooting star?" I ask and I point at it.
"Yeah," she says without turning to look at it at all.
"I've never seen one before."
"You haven't?" she sits up, tearing her eyes away from the sky and facing me, "What?"
"Look," her fingers have mine in a vice grip and she turns to face the star, now sliding across the sky and leaving a silver trail in its wake, with me.
I stare at it for a moment, but then have to look away. I look at her, and see that her eyes are following the star and her blank face has sprouted a smile.
"It's beautiful," I whisper.
"It is. How have you never seen one?"
"I just haven't."
She doesn't say anything else. Neither do I. Instead, we sit in silence, watching the star fly across the sky, seeming to fall towards us as if any second it would drop out of the heavens and land in the grass beside us.
She doesn't let go of my hand. I don't let go of hers. A century passes with the star, and when it is gone we are once again staring at the stillness. I am still empty, and I'm sure that she is still small, but neither of us is alone.
Prince George, VA
My name is Jon Stawarz. I'm a college student in Virginia who loves the written word.