We weren’t talking. We were just lying there, the night time mist seeping into our skin. Faint chirps of a bird echoed through the darkness. The shouts of the chaos inside were drowned out by the quiet calmness of the outdoors. I squirmed against the blades of grass at my back. I was trying to find a more comfortable position and trying not to think about the fact that he was right next to me.
The sky was beautiful that night, dotted with glittering stars — little diamonds against a coal canvas. The moon was almost directly overhead, but not quite. I had to crane my neck slightly to have a full view of the gleaming crescent looming in the distance. I turned to see it, and at the same time he did too. We were suddenly inches apart, our noses so close they could almost brush against each other. I breathed in; he breathed out.
We looked at each other, not saying anything.
“You know, I think I like stargazing better than cloud-watching,” he finally said, breaking both the silence and the moment. “With clouds, you have to guess what they are, what they represent. The stars just tell you, with constellations. I like knowing. I don’t like guessing. Do you get that?”
I nodded, muttered a vague agreement. I knew too well about that. I had to guess every day about him, about us, about what all this was, if it meant the same thing to him as it did to me. We were clouds and I wanted to be stars.
We were still looking at each other, and I became intensely aware of my surroundings, noticing anything other than the way his breath smelled (spearmint), or how his faint freckles seemed to dance across his cheeks and nose, or how his eyelashes were so long they could practically touch his eyes (beautiful, hazy blue-gray color, and about the size of the moon in its phase a day before it’s full), or how his hair shifted when he moved, keeping to the beat of his motions. I didn’t notice any of that as we stared at each other, taking every moment breath by breath.
He talked a lot, I noticed that. In school, conversations were always fleeting “hi’s” between classes or big group situations. In a strange way, it was almost as if we barely knew each other. The weird thing about high school, it seemed, was that no one shared mundane things with others like their favorite food or school subject–everyone I met wanted to talk about their future, and what life meant to them, and how underclassmen put upperclassmen on pedestals they didn’t deserve to be on and whether or not a high school education really mattered in the long run, etc. I noticed that he loved to talk philosophically and passionately, and I didn’t stop him. I just never started that kind of conversation.
And then I turned away from him, ruining the moment. I didn’t mean to, but I shifted too fast and I couldn’t turn back to him again very well (that was too desperate). I was suddenly stuck again in the limbo of looking up at the sky while being so keenly aware that he was right next to me.
I didn’t know if he was looking at the sky or looking at me, and I didn’t know which one I’d prefer.
I began to trace out familiar constellations in my mind, moving my finger ever so slightly to help, brushing against the cold grass.
“I don’t like Juliet,” I said suddenly.
“Of Romeo and Juliet fame. We just finished reading that in class, and I think she’s awful. I think that whole relationship is extremely toxic and doesn’t deserve to be romanticized. They literally meet each other and die for each other in the course of less than a week. Like, I get that they thought it was their only choice, I really do. But they could have easily eloped without having to use the fake death as a cover.”
He laughed. “Tell that to historians and teachers everywhere. I’m sure they’ll agree with you.” He swept his hands across the air. “Breaking news: the greatest love story ever told turns out to be the worst.”
I smiled. “I’m just saying, those kids shouldn’t be put on a pedestal. They’re just so freaking selfish.”
“I guess I agree. I mean, yeah, I’d say they’re the main reason everything went wrong. But everyone messed up in some way, didn’t they? Every character contributed to the disaster that were the results of Romeo and Juliet,” he said.
I sat up. “That’s exactly how I feel!” I laid back down. “That’s exactly how I feel.”
A short pause hung over us. I watched a bird hover over something in the grass, but I couldn’t see what it was. His hand lingered ever so slightly over mine (at least from my angle it looked like it was).
“Do you think when Shakespeare wrote it, he wanted to write a great love story or he wanted to show the readers and viewers what not to do? Like did he set out to write a cautionary tale of sorts and the message just got warped with time? I’d like to think that,” I said.
“I’d like to think that, too,” he finally said. “That’s smart.” I didn’t know if he was referring to Shakespeare or my little analysis.
I didn’t know many people with whom I could have this kind of conversation. I didn’t know any boys who would be willing to talk about stuff like this. All I knew right now was him, and that he made me feel like I knew everything.
Just then, I heard some voices in the distance, and some car engines, and I knew the night was coming to a close. We’d been out here the whole time — I don’t think I ever stepped foot inside. It wasn’t like I wanted to anyways. While not losing my focus on the sky, I suggested, “Maybe we should get up. It’s late, it looks like everyone’s leaving. I’m probably getting picked up in like ten minutes.”
I once read online somewhere that the ancient Greeks had different words for different forms of love. I don’t like to think that there is one good definition for love. That’s what the Greeks got right — there is no one form of love. What I think they got wrong was that not all love can fit neatly into their categories.
But lying on the grass next to him, just being with him, looking at him, talking with him seemed predestined, in a sense; I think if love could be explained like a series of chemical reactions, this was the catalyst. I wasn’t sure if I was in love with him, but I certainly felt like I loved him. But what did that really mean? Did all that even matter if he didn’t feel like that? To him, I could have just been another girl to talk to at another party.
“So let’s just stay out here for ten more minutes. I can wait with you.” He said and I smiled. It occurred to me then how contained we were, in our little world of high school parties and stargazing. We were kids in an adult world and I was suddenly scared of what that meant. “I want to wait with you,” he echoed. The bird I was watching earlier landed.
I decided that I didn’t care what would happen tomorrow, because all that mattered was what was happening right now. So I told him, “I’d like that very much,” and we watched the stars again.