[For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, SAM gave me this prompt: "What if there really was a little man on the moon? Who is he? Why is he there? And why does he always have such a silly expression on his face?." I gave Christine this prompt: "I'm in a hurry."]
We left early, because she wanted to. We always did what she wanted to do, because she had a force about her, a way of making it impossible to say no. She wouldn't stop, couldn't stop, until she got what she wanted. She wanted the picture, prince and princess in rented clothes, so we did that, and she wanted to dance, to be seen. So we did that, too, and then she wanted it known that she was leaving early, not for some lame, parent protected gathering, but alone, with me, leaving the rest to the listener's imagination. So we left.
We drove north, towards the seacoast beaches, because that's where she wanted to be. We listened to George Michael and Peter Gabriel, because they were her favorites. When we found a parking lot that was semi abandoned, we parked there. We walked across the street to a pizza place, their lonely fluorescents seeking customers that weren't there yet, the girl behind the counter congratulated us on our wedding. I didn't correct her.
We ate, then walked on the beach, her perfect brown toes barely touching the wet sand, carrying her shoes like we were making a jewelry commercial. We went back to the car, kissing for a while, then finally, when she said we had to stop, putting the seats back and looking at the sky. The moon stared down at us both, fat and tan and full. I opened the moon roof. We listened to the waves crashing on the beach. My hand found hers. I held on to her in the darkness. It felt like we were the only two people in the world.
"I used to believe in the Man in the Moon," she said.
"Yeah. When I was five or six. My Daddy told me he would always be up there, watching me. Protecting me."
"You believed him?"
"When I was five, I did," she said a little too sharply.
We were quiet for a while. A car passed by behind us, disturbing the purity of the moonlight. I thought about what her friends thought we might be up to. She had a bit of a reputation. Were they envious? Or disdainful? Probably a little of both.
"You don't need anyone to protect you now," I said.
"I need you," she said.
"I can't really protect you," I said.
"You do your best."
"But what if that's not good enough?"
"It will be," she said confidently.
We were quiet again. I assumed that, as long as we were clothed, the police would leave us alone. So far, I was right. I stared up into the night, thinking about the photons that were hitting my retina. I knew the moon didn't glow, it just reflected sunlight that we couldn't see. I remembered reading that if the sun were to explode, as if we lived in a disaster movie or a comic book, we wouldn't know for several minutes. I wondered if we would really know at all.
The distances involved in talking about cosmology always staggered me. Some of those stars you could see, far away from the moon's omnipresent glow, had sent their light towards Earth when Christ lived, or when Tutankhamen did, or when dinosaurs ruled the world. It seemed like an impossible burden, all these millenia leading inexorably to me, sitting here. Generations of families, carrying the genes forward, babies begetting more babies, for century after century. I didn't feel worthy of all that history.
"When that girl congratulated you? At the pizza place?"
"Yeah," she said. "That was funny."
"Why didn't you correct her?"
"I wish she was right."
"I don't know. Kind of."
"That's nice. I wish she was right, too," I said.
"Yeah," she said. "I really feel like we could be, you know?"
"Yeah. I've never felt anything like this before."
"I really feel good when I'm with you. Safe," she said.
"Safer than the Man In The Moon?"
"Way safer," she said.
I looked at my watch and pulled my seat upwards. I reached over and fastened my seat belt.
"Already?," she said.
"Yeah," I said. "Your dad said midnight, it had better be midnight." Her father, imposing and Texan and ramrod straight, an Air Force officer who knew one way of doing things.
"I wish I didn't have to go home," she said.
"I know," I said. I started the engine, and the Peter Gabriel tape came on. I looked around and prepared to back out. She was looking up at the sky, still laying down, the moonlight creating shadows beside her aquiline nose.
"I really do want to get married," she said. "Someday."
"But what if you stop loving me? What if you learn to hate me? What if you fall in love with someone else?"
"That couldn't happen," she said, and took my hand. I drove away slowly, keeping an eye on the moon behind us, knowing she was lying, and wondering if I was, too.