"Should I give you the usual 'how pretty are the stars, do you know where Ursa Major is' talk?"
I had seen Vivian leaving the room where I and our friends were, as quietly as she could. Two minutes later I was after her. I found her lying over the grass, a hundred yards away from the Victorian house that belongs to my family, watching the starry sky. I lay beside her.
I loved her, but she pretended not to know it.
"I know a lot more Astronomy than you do," she replied.
She never smiles—not exactly. She giggles, she seems happy and entertained, but there is always a shadow behind her thin lips, disguising—perhaps a private amusement that she doesn't share, perhaps her deep thoughts. Of all the people I have ever met, Vivian is the one I understand the least.
And the one I love the most.
"I'm glad you came," I said. She did not answer. She never answers to any reference I make about us. About a possible "us," since there was not really an "us" yet. I tried another topic. "Why do you like stars so much?"
"'Cause they're pretty."
"You are pretty," I said.
"No, I am not," she replied, after a moment of hesitation.
"Yes, you are." I turned around, facing her. She was still looking at the sky. There was only the tiniest crescent moon on the sky, but it was enough to distinguish her silhouette, to see her light brown eyes shining and the light brown hair, which I longed so much for, draped around her face.
"Yeah, that's why I am a supermodel," she said sarcastically. She was ready to leave.
"Don't you know I love you, Vivian?"
Maybe she blushed; I think I saw her chin shake feebly, but her eyes never left the sky.
"Yes, I do. More than anything else. I love you with all my will." I extended my hand, touching her peachy skin as lightly as I could, feeling the warmth and electric charge that nothing else in the world possessed. "Why won't you believe me?"
"You are fooling yourself." I was shaking now, my legs refusing to be still; I forced them to, as much as I could, hoping that Vivian would not notice my nervousness. I almost backed up then; but something in me—either the desire, or the fear of losing her, or maybe just a senseless attempt to extend my fall for a little, before crashing into the ground, before losing her for good—made me try harder.
"No, you are," I said, somewhat harshly. "You are afraid of love. You are afraid of having someone who adores you, whose life depends on your breathing, whose love is unfathomable. You are afraid of being in love, because you would lose some of your independence, because you could get hurt. You prefer the stars, which stay up there in the sky for millions of years, unchanged during your lifetime. They are safe. They are too far, too abstract, unreachable, hidden behind an equation and a telescope." I felt sad and angry; I felt that, if I couldn't have her, then she should feel as much pain as I did. "You won't take a chance. You hurt to be not hurt yourself." I pulled her head to face me.
"Stop. I want to go," she muttered. "You are an asshole."
I kissed her. Almost, because she pulled away, and the touch of her lips was as ethereal as the one of a ghost; or as a fading dream that pulls away from us as we try to hold on to it. She ran into the house.
I knew I wouldn't sleep that evening, and it was hard to stand the company of those friends, laughing and joking, unaware of the pain I felt, of the disguise of my countenance and of Vivian's—whose mask was so dense that not even I, knowing what had happened, could see through. Alcohol always made me sad, not happy, and I refrained from downing a few glasses in search of relief. I drank only as much as I knew would make me a little drowsy.
She did not say a word to me that evening, she did not even look at me. I know that for sure, because I watched her all the time, until she finally went to her bedroom and there was nothing else for me to do.
The booze I drank was not enough to bring me to sleep. I lay on my bed, awake, the lights off, the windows open to the pleasant spring evening. I replayed the evening in my mind, feeling guilty, feeling anguished for my loss, feeling stupid for having blown my chances with her, wondering how I could fix it, wondering how to make her love me, imagining how I'd send her ten dozens of roses—which I knew I would never buy, writing lame love letters for her—which would never be sent.