That night we sat on the kitchen counter eating takeout Indian food right up until our normal bedtime. When we began to yawn you loaded blankets and pillows into the truck and I made a pot of coffee with more beans than probably necessary.
We cozied into the front seat and sipped from our shared thermos, burning our lips on the edge. Your laughter kept wrapping around me like the warmth from a living room hearth. We listened to ‘90s hits and reminisced about high school and Pearl Jam albums. All the falling I’d been doing this year felt safely in the past as we drove.
I told you again how we were going to a drive-in movie in Palm Springs. When we passed through that Mid-Century town, you gave me a sideways glance me from the driver’s seat because you’re not new to my antics. The GPS chirped on about more miles to go.
The dark crept over us and the scarecrow bodies of Joshua Trees became visible in every direction, soaked in moonlight. You were on to me. Yes, a meteor shower and not a drive-in movie. We pulled to the most secluded corner of the national park and created a nest in the back of your truck. We sat extra close and chatted as the moon set slowly. I pulled out a secret supply of Cheez-Its and tangerines to keep us awake.
When it became velvety black out, we began to see bullets of pure white zoom across the Milky Way backdrop. We whispered about how small we felt and how this would always be one of those places we could come for hours and hours without growing restless.
Past midnight, I dug a bottle of red wine from the snack tote and handed it to you.
Drops of Jupiter wine, eh?
I guess Train stopped making music and is cultivating vineyards now? So strange.
You noticed my voice grow too quiet at the end of my sentence.
This is cheesy, when I saw the name of the wine it made me tear up in the store. I’m just going to play the song.
My iPhone glowed absurdly bright as I attempted YouTube with a desert signal.
Now that she’s back in the atmosphere,
with drops of Jupiter in her hair, hey hey hey
she acts like summer and walks like rain
I tucked my head into your side, you kissed my forehead and waited for me.
I wanted to make this a bigger deal than calling you from the grocery store parking lot, so regretting that now, so vulnerable. I need to channel Brene Brown here. Okay, when I read that wine bottle and remembered those lyrics… Somehow I knew that I was ready to call this, us, home.
You laid my head on your warm chest and I let myself move up and down with your breath. We watched the sky fall in silence. We drank wine. You laughed at me for thinking a white moth jetting by was a meteor, several times in a row. We fell in and out of spacious sleep.
At 3am we drove home with me half-asleep on your shoulder. The whole time the truth was brewing in me like magic: what matters isn’t a palpitating chest, shortness of breath, and a stomach without rest. It’s Birkenstocks and Cheez-It dust in a pickup beneath a sky luminescent with stars, feeling as small as you ever will, and knowing you are as seen and important as you’ve ever been.
Natalie Skeith is a storyteller and poet in Southern California. She has a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, believes in prayer, and has a gypsy heart. She tries to see the beauty in all things and believes champagne is for all occasions. Check out her blog at NatalieSkeith.com or on Instagram @NatalieSkeith.