“The stars,” she said. “See how close together they are? Almost touching? Look.” She took his fingers, pressed them together to hold a star. “You can almost touch one to another. Feel the light, one against the other. The fire.”
He said okay. Sure.
She rolled back into the dark field.
“But then you get close,” she said, “and it turns out they’re millions and millions of miles away. Did you know that?”
He said he didn’t.
“The closest star, I mean one to another, the closest one is like a hundred million light years from the next one, like in the whole universe. And the closer you get to a star, like they look close together now, but if you were to fly up there, all that way, the closer you get to the stars, the further away you are from the next one. The further away everything is.”
He said he didn’t know that. He closed his eyes, thought about the tips of her fingers on his, pressing together. The flat of her thumb against the knuckle of his. The tip of her index finger guiding his. He’d seen a movie, maybe a documentary, and a soldier had stepped on a land mine in the desert darkness. Had blown both his legs off. And he woke up, still feeling the legs. Still feeling the weight. It was called a “phantom” something. Feeling it pressed against you. He wondered how long that could last.
He heard something. Something deep. Something throbbing. Then a little light in the distance. Like stars on the ground. Only not stars. Not stars, at all. He looked across to see wavy shadows moving in and out of the light as people were coming toward them, getting bigger the closer they came.
“Staci,” one of the guys said. They were all wearing their red football jerseys, jeans, boots. “You all right?”
“Yeah,” she said, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. “I think—” She swallowed. “I think those Jello shots put me over the edge. Somebody oughta check those.”
Rusty sat watching. No one said anything to him.
One of them reached a hand down for Staci. Then they walked away, toward the house, their football jerseys shining in the moonlight, the stars, the house lights. Everything reflecting off them.
Alone in the field, he watched everything move further away.