I’ve been awake since 4 a.m. But that was twenty hours ago, and now we’re here, at the party, and the sky seems low and the stars particularly bright, and I’m outside, near the pool, with him. He holds a beer. I hold my cell phone.
There are many others, but to me there are only two people: me and him, him and me, our many atoms in constant rotation, ever expanding, probably away from one another at the speed of light in our own kind of vacuum. Next year he will likely return to the East Coast and I will go who knows where, but wherever it is, I fear that I will lose my friend.
“Remember my theory about how we all had our own universes at one point?” A mindless habit of mine, I twirl a piece of my long hair and toss it over my shoulder.
He shakes his head.
I slide my phone into my back pocket. I use both hands when I speak. “Okay well, my perceptive world, on our spinning rock in a galaxy and a universe that’s resting on a speck of dust floating through some other universe – is not any different than yours, on the surface. We see and hear the same things but process them completely differently.”
He nods. He sips his beer.
“You know how there was nothing before the start of the universe?” I ask.
He nods again. “The big bang?”
“Yes, but think about that for a second. Nothing.”
I’ve managed to maintain eye contact, though I sense he’s losing focus. His eyes dart to a group of noisy party-goers gathered directly behind us. He fidgets with the keys in his pocket. “What’s there to think about? It’s nothing, right? That’s what we come from. Or don’t come from.” He tosses his empty beer can into the bushes.
“But, nothingness? Everything is something. Nothing like the jumble of noise that plays in between radio stations? Nothing like my brain during the stats final I bombed? Nothing like…” I look around. It’s dark, and loud, and it’s been a long night. I point to the bushes. “Nothing like the contents of your beer can? But even then, there are molecules that make up the space in between the aluminum.”
He lets out a sigh, and a slight grin. “What was your point again?”
“My point is that there’s no such thing as nothing. Before the universe spontaneously exploded into something, or everything, I think that, maybe, there were all of our singular universes, waiting to collide with one another and –”
He cuts me off, laughing. “You sure you didn’t smoke some of that spliff inside?”
He knows that the answer to this is no. He sets his hand on my shoulder. He is a little wobbly on his feet. “Okay Einstein, I’m gonna get something else to drink. Try not to get lost in space while I’m gone.”
I roll my eyes. I try to remain cool. I know he doesn’t care about any of this stuff. But what he doesn’t know is that the magnetic force between his hand and my bare shoulder on this humid fall night at another lame college party at the start of our senior year is an explosion of its own. Under my skin, my heart is beating rapidly around the entropy that is my organs, my bones, my thoughts, desires, uncertainties.
I realize in this tiny blip in time that I’m utterly terrified of the expansive dark matter: all the things I don’t know, and never will. He keeps his hand on my shoulder and locks his eyes onto mine. In my heart there is an expansion, a cooling, and the formation of stars.
Anne Strand is a Maine native living in Los Angeles, where she works with emerging young women writers. Her work has appeared in Westwind, Raft, and Ekphrasis: Poems Speaking to Silent Works of Art.