One night we saw a meteor shower, Cara and I, but it wasn’t much of a thing to look at. Just a few bright sparks skittering across the sky – gone beyond the hills before you knew it.
“What’s that star called?” said Cara. “The yellow one shuddering in and out by the tree branch.”
“How would I know a thing like that?”
“Thought you were into things nobody else knows.”
“Oh, it’s probably just a firefly. Put your glasses back on.”
She’d started wearing glasses but kept breaking or losing them and had to go for a new pair every other month. There was no eye doctor in town anymore, but there was a fierce trade in secondhand glasses. They had them all piled up on tables, and people came out of the woods for miles around and pawed through them, pushing them onto their faces and looking down at their own hands and fingers like they were the final proof of God. For some reason people still liked seeing what it was they were looking at even though it did them little good.
I myself had been losing sight in my right eye for years, but my left eye was unaffected. I was waiting for them both to go and then I’d decide what to do about it. Whenever I picked up a book and read a little, which I still somehow had the stomach for, I covered my bad eye. I’d sit there in the kitchen like that, right hand over right eye, peering like a cyclops into lost worlds. Sometimes it made me want to vomit. How could we ever have been so stupid as to destroy every good thing we ever had?
“You think there’s anybody out there?” said Cara.
She was drunk but cheerful enough. You would never suspect the murderous nature of her heart.
“Out there?” I said, pointing at the stars.
“Just what we need around here. Strangers dropping down from other worlds.”
She took a swig out of the bottle and passed it to me, but I didn’t want anymore. I was sick of drinking myself into a stupor and getting into arguments about who I was and who I wasn’t.
It was a hot summer night and the cicadas were screaming without mercy. Their screams sounded like the blood rushing into my eardrums when I thought I might die from a hot flash. Down near the river the frogs were all riled up, too, bellowing out their short, ribald lives. I didn’t know why anybody needed to look up at the sky and ponder what was going on out there on distant rocks. It was bad enough speculating on who was holed up downriver, hatching plans. Monsters roamed the streets a short boat ride away, getting up in each other’s faces, claws bared. I didn’t want any part of it. Not here and not on planets whirling around yellow stars I didn’t know the names of.
Sometimes the night sky dredged up a hatred in me. It stretched outward forever and ever, black nothing, and we were stuck at the very bottom of it.
“If there’s anybody out there, I hope they just stay put.”
“I’ll kill them,” said Cara.
“Well, I hope I’m in the ground under that tree over there when that happens. Then it would be fine.”
“Maybe they’re watching us right now. Listening in.”
This seemed to tickle her fancy for a moment, but then she, too, got angry. We were two angry women thrashing around and spitting venom, trapped at the bottom of the night.
She set down the bottle and raised her arms in the air and said vile things I will not repeat, and she said them directly at the stars. She laughed in the faces of our invisible eavesdroppers and told them things they will not soon forget. I listened to it all, taking it in like more frog prattle, more cicada buzz. Just another feature of the night. It wasn’t the first time I’d watched her raging upward into the void.
A meteor streaked across the sky and Cara laughed and threatened and growled and swore. She said bloodcurdling things and made sure I heard them. Somehow, I took comfort in these antics, though. We would get up in the morning like none of it had happened. But we would be the better for it. And if we weren’t, then we weren’t.
Photo by Mike Lewinski, used and adapted under CC.