By Christina Ta
Greg and Vivi lay side by side, the hairs on their arms just touching, but not really. Their breaths are in sync. When they inhale, their bodies inflate and move upwards just enough so that their hairs separate—a sense of emptiness—and all they long for is to empty their lungs again—to be nothing but blobs of atoms pressed flat to the ground—and then they do. They exhale. They decompress, and there is just the tickling of their skin against each other’s once more. It’s like they never left the graveyard. Like she’s still young with platinum blonde hair, and he’s nothing more than a sleepy resident, and they never grew up to become the complicated adults, quagmiring through a messy life and convoluted feelings, like they are now.
Greg wants to hold her hand. He wants to do what he didn’t do the last time.
He wants to hold her and not let her go, but he doesn’t. He stays still. Doesn’t want to ruin the moment of their synchronized breathing. He waits whole lifetimes between each inhale and the moment when his arm will touch hers once more. The stars shine above their heads, and soon, they will have to get up and join their friends and family. They’ll be looking for them. The credits are already rolling. He wants to lie on the dry grass with the knotty root digging into his spine with Vivi lying by his side for forever. He doesn’t want her to leave.
She starts to move, starts to get up, and then he does it. He takes her by the arm and pulls her back down. Her skin feels as flushed as his own. Baked and made sticky by summer air. He doesn’t let go, his fingers still wrapped around her wrist.
“They’ll be looking for us,” she says. Her voice is soft, a whisper only he can hear. He wants her to face him, but reality and guilt will hit them if they look at each other, so instead they stare at the sky, at the vast expanse of stars, divinity, and tragic-drawn fates. He recognizes Cassiopeia and Cepheus, and he points them out to her.
“The stars aren’t so bright tonight,” she says. The crowd of bodies that once kept them hidden begins to thin.
“It’s because the moon’s too bright. It makes them look dim in comparison.”
“They were brighter at the graveyard.”
He pauses. A breeze blows past and the branches hanging above their head sway. Loose leaves fall to the ground. One lands on his wrist. He slides his hand down until it slips into her palm and his fingers fill the empty spaces between her own. It’s her turn now. Her choice to hold on or to let go. She turns to him, her hair brushes against the skin of his cheek, breath ghost by his lips. Her hand has yet to respond. He faces her now and their eyes meet, their noses kiss.
“Do you want to go back?” he asks. “To the graveyard. Right now before they find us?”
He waits for his answer. He waits for her hand to either slip away or finally, grip onto his, and he goes on waiting. Each heartbeat—each inhale and exhale—an eternity.