It was perfectly nighttime.
There was a sloping tangle of layers of deep green thickly weaved. Short trees and stout bushes crowded together and collaged the earth with twisting limbs and smothered it with leaves. The green was painted in streaks, spots, splashes all over the incline; impressionistic, pointillistic; dark and heavy away from the day’s brilliant sunlight. A city of insects lived there: rushing from branch to branch, jumping and flying with wings screeching minutely. Spiders trapped them in their silk or their jaws and watched them die with many passionless eyes. They ate the insect’s twitching bodies and the insects ate the green plantflesh. The sweet and suffocating smells of life and death drenched the air.
A rustle stirred the leaves and a hundred dragonflies rose at once and swoopdarted on blueglittering wings across the top of the leaves then up into the consuming night.
At the bottom of the green slope was a beach and at night it was always empty. The beach was deserted but the sky was populated with an endless crowd of stars so thick it seemed like a sparklewhite honey to be drunk. The Milky Way was a painted ceiling that seemed too heavy to be held up. I feared it would collapse on us.
We lay on the beachsand side by side. We weren’t touching. Do you believe in god? you said and I said that depends what you mean and you knew it was a bad answer. Do you? I said and you kissed me.
Then we weren’t touching any more. The Milky Way hung above us and its vastness was righteous and terrifying. For a moment what should always seem endless was finite and I could see it all from one glinting corner to the other and I could feel the space between me and you widen to make us stars apart in a sandy sky. I closed my eyes and tried not to feel the distance.
The water rolled onto the beach in whiteflecked waves. Behind the waves the sea was black and unseeable. You looked at me; you weren’t smiling but your eyes reflected the starlight brightly. Look you said. Look at the dragonflies. They flew over our heads and broke the monochrome of the night with wings as blue as the day’s sky. Their bodies were rigid and their heads were still but their wings were furious and they swept over us, along the beach then up again to disappear into the starlit void. Where are they going? you said. I don’t know.
We must have been drinking something. You handed me a purple bottle and I emptied the last of it into my mouth. It burned hot inside me and I felt its fumes diffuse through my body and into my head. We looked at each other and I laughed and you finally smiled, only a brief lift of your lips but a smile. You lay back and looked up at the stars that scared me and said that’s my god. That’s everything. That’s my life scattered across those uncountable stars. When I go I’ll go there. I hope people look for me up there, even though they’ll never find me. I’m a constellation; a shape drawn across the sky; not because there’s a shape there but because someone sees one to be drawn. It’s a beautiful shape I said. I’ll draw you every day.
Come on you said and smiled at me, holding me with that look. You stood up and looked down at me with your headcocked smile faded but true like a washed out photograph. When you turned and walked down the beach I followed.
We found some driftwood and piled it together and set it alight and the dancing flames lit our faces hot. You pulled out another bottle and drank and laughed as we sat on hollowed treetrunks and talked.
So do you? you said and I said what and you said do you believe in god? I finished the bottle and twisted it into the sand by my feet. I believe that god is now, here, between us, in the fire, in the sand, in the sea, in the stars. It was a better answer. You stood up and said come on and the fire crackled in your eyes as you looked at me before you turned to walk towards the sea.
I followed you and as we walked we took off our clothes and dropped them on the sand piece by piece. Behind us the plants and insects held their breath. As you reached the water your body shimmered in the starlight like a mirage. You waded in and I followed and the waves broke against us until we were far enough out to swim and we plunged our nakedness through the cool black nightwater. We laughed as we swam in circles and splashed each other.
We swam in a little so our toes could dance us across the ocean floor nearly weightlessly. Look you said and circled your hand underwater. Lights appeared and darted by your fingertips. They looked like the dying shards of sparklers. They were stars in the night sky of the sea.
They’re alive you said. The plankton are making light. It’s life. When your hand touched them they lit up then faded.
With underwater languidity I swept you towards me into my arms and I kissed you. Our faces were wet and shining. You looked through my eyes and into me.
I let you go and looked down. I wriggled my hands in the water and watched the lights appear in bursts and I was mesmerised. I brushed my hand in an arc and watched as life sparked and then I realised that the lights were bursting into the Milky Way. The whole of our galaxy was in those tiny gleams of life, formed in perfect reflection of the sky above. There was a Milky Way above my head and a Milky Way below my eyes.
Look I said. I couldn’t take my eyes away. I wanted to see it forever. Look what they’re doing. Look. You didn’t answer. Finally I looked up and you had gone. I looked all around but you were nowhere. All I saw were the embers of our fire dying as the last chunk of driftwood crumbled to ash. I looked and looked around me. Then the Milky Ways folded into each other, into one, as the sky met the water and the night swallowed everything and I looked for you in the stars and drew a constellation of you.