Hot Air Ballooning Through the Aurora Borealis
You were buck hunting from the air, going east. I was searching for lost Eskimo gold, going west. Our baskets crashed together and our balloons got tangled. Off came our night vision goggles, and introductions were made. We drifted off course and up into the atmosphere, and before we knew it, the sky was on green fire around us—we had drifted into an aurora. We were dizzy with awe and enchantment, both of the sky and of one another. Either that or the air was very thin. It became apparent that our balloons could not be separated, while in the air. We drifted back to ground, set up camp, started a fire. I knifed open a tin of beans. “I reckon it’ll take more than tangled balloon lines,” I said, “to keep us apart, now on.” You spat into the fire, and the fire flared, and for a long while we gazed at the fire and then at one another. “I reckon you’re right,” you said finally. “You god-blessed handsome man. I reckon you are right.”
Finding a Tree to Chop Down (with apologies to Wes Anderson)
You had an axe. I had an axe. We’d started at opposite ends of the dirt path that has no name and met by chance in the meadow. The crickets and the rust-beetles scuttled among the nettles of the sage thicket. “I’m gonna go find me a tree to chop down,” you said. I said, “I know one that’s already dead.” You smiled, but it was a sad smile—too sad a smile for a twelve-year-old. “Soon we’ll be grown up,” you said, “confused and afraid and keenly aware of the loss of the wonder we’re feeling right now, this very moment.” I shifted my axe from my right shoulder to my left: it was nearly the length of my body, and heavy. “It’ll be harder to lose this moment if we stick together,” I said, hoping intensely it was the right thing to say. You looked at me with love and pity. The wood kept us warm through winter.
Suddenly After Years of Friendship
We met years ago but no one knows because we have no friends in common. You told me your boyfriend of seven years cheated on you and broke your heart, after which it took me a few days to realize I was in love with you. Suddenly, you were so pretty I felt awkward around you. Suddenly, I found myself writing multiple drafts of every email and text I sent you. I was panicking. I wanted to let you get over the guy in your own good time, and I didn’t want to pressure you, but on the other hand I absolutely had to see you every single day because you were leaving New York in a month. One measly month. Four weeks. Twenty-nine-and-a-half days to be exact, since you planned to leave late in the day. Without me, I imagined you would sit alone every night in your apartment nursing mason jars full of liquor, a scowl on your face. I started making a plan for us. I would be your June boyfriend. Since you couldn’t know about this plan, our relationship would perforce be chaste. But you would invite me to drive with you to South Dakota, where you would stay a while with your family before continuing to your true destination, the West Coast. You would introduce me to the better parts of Dakotan cuisine—deep-fried cheese balls dipped in ranch dressing—and then we would neck under the stars on the golf course behind your father’s farm. Soon thereafter I would fly to San Diego to see you. Sunset. Beach. Taco truck. A profession of love. Then I would sell my apartment, quit my job, move cross country, and for a while it would be awkward. You’d still be getting over the guy, and I’d be finding out all your bad habits for the first time. “If we last six months,” I would jokingly say, “we’ll last forever,” and you would laugh but, also, worry. To this day you look at me sometimes and say, “That was a terrible plan.” And I, blissed out on the California sun and you, nod and smile. “But we made it work.”