“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.
Late at night I heard someone outside my room, at the hall. I thought it was George, because he often spends his nights up. I wanted to talk to him—I wanted to talk to anybody, but George was someone I could talk to, someone who would keep my words to himself, someone who knew women better than me. I opened the door, but it was not George.
It was Vivian. She looked caught like a deer at a dark road, staring the headlights that would kill it. She was wearing a simple white gown that made me fall in love with her even more; I almost fell to my knees, begging for... anything, anything at all. She was maybe three yards away. I started to walk towards her. She never blinked, her eyes wide open.
“I...” she uttered, but never finished the sentence. She must have forgotten it even before I kissed her. This time she was not a fleeting ghost, but an attractive woman who, by simply not saying no, gave me more strength than all the domains of this world could.
I didn't care if anybody else could hear us making love. I had her, in my bed, willing. She had come to me—even if only half the way, even if she probably would never had gathered the will to knock. I wanted her, I wanted to take her into my arms and make love to her, I wanted to hear her moans and see her tender face disrupted by the expressions of her pleasure, I wanted to make her feel as I did, maddened with love, senses lost to passion and desire, time and the world forgotten. The sight of her, sitting over her legs on my bed—a bed that had been mine all my life, where I had slept on the summers of my childhood—with her nightgown off and already forgotten, her breasts glowing in the feeble moonlight, her hair falling down freely; that sight made me thankful for being alive, made me feel one with the universe, made me feel complete, overflowing with happiness and satisfaction. My only worry—that I wouldn't last—dissolved when it was made real by her hands, and yet my lust was only heightened and my hardness almost unshaken.
I made love to her.
It's meaningless to speak for how long, for time disappeared. Or what we did—everything, there were so many places to touch, to kiss, to caress; I wanted to drown in her body, nothing was enough. But at some point it ended, as our bodies fell to the weariness, the alcohol, the sleep. Before they all brought me oblivion, while I was in a state that confounded dream and reality such that I cannot say for sure whether it happened or not, she said to me, with what seemed to be the saddest voice and face I have ever seen, “you will never again love me as much as you did tonight.”
I fell asleep, and I could not ask her later if she had really said that. Her eyes, the next morning, hid herself and all her thoughts again, and I knew that I could never understand her. But she smiled her sad smile, her eyes shining, and she kissed me, a kiss of love. And at that moment I had the unsettling certainty that I knew nothing, and that, if my love for her was as big as the Sun, Vivian was the Universe.