It was my first memory. September 29th, my third birthday. I remember the house: familiar banisters wrapped in streamers, balloons in every corner, and a big “Happy Birthday” sign draped over the fireplace mantle. I had just finished indulging in a large helping of carrot cake, the sugary buttercream smearing the skin around my mouth and chin, when I looked out of the living room window.
That’s when I saw her.
She glowed with the brilliance of a hundred thousand fireflies, backlighting fluffy clouds with the off-white of an angel’s robes. She was a dollop of chantilly, sweet and inviting. I licked the buttercream frosting from the edge of my mouth and thought she must taste the same.
Apparently, there were tears in my eyes. I don’t remember crying, but sometimes my dad will recount the story of his kiddo’s third birthday, weeping for no reason with a face of frosting. It’s still my favourite memory.
My kindergarten teacher always thought it was a bit odd that I kept drawing the same thing. Over and over, it was just the Moon. To give myself credit, I did add variety. Sometimes it was a Half-Moon or just a Crescent-Moon, the way she looked in storybooks. My teacher suggested trying something else to draw, and I listened because I didn’t want her to be mad at me. I drew other things, but upon reflection I think I was secretly drawing the Moon again: a button, a wagon wheel, a soccer ball, anything simple and circular. More often than not I was still drawing her, even if I didn’t intend to. I couldn’t help it; I saw her in everything.
My teacher discussed my hyperfixation on parent-teacher night while I sat next to them, too young to know shame but old enough to know something felt off about the way she said it. My parents brushed off my infatuation as my childhood imagination. Some young kids became obsessed with dragons or horses or Spider-Man; it was all perfectly normal. My parents brushed off a lot of things as simply a part of childhood, especially things they shouldn’t have. For example, how thin our walls were and how loud their arguments got.
I first learned the Moon was a “she” in the third grade. It was almost summer vacation. We were running out of things to do in class, so my Language Arts teacher had us write stories about anything we wanted. I sat next to my friend Emily, a big eyed girl with a pen that wrote in sparkly green ink. It was kind of hard to read when the light hit it, but it was fun to look at. I leaned over and noticed she was writing a story that mentioned the Moon. She referred to the Moon as “she.” I pointed to it.
“Why did you use she?”
“The Moon is a girl. My aunt told me. She said the Moon is a girl, and the sun is a boy.” I didn’t think of the Moon as a girl until then. I didn’t think of the Moon as a boy either; I thought of the Moon as the Moon. People were different from the Moon—they weren’t as good. I repeated the sentence in my head: “The Moon is a girl. The Moon is a girl? The Moon is … a girl.”
“Does she have a name?”
Emily shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t think so. If she did, I would want to know it.”
That night, I sat on an old tire swing hanging from an oak branch in the backyard, trying to ignore the incessant late-June mosquitos. I talked with her about being a “she” and asked her if she would mind if I started calling her that. She didn’t say anything. Since that day, I have addressed the Moon as “she.” It felt better in my mouth. Even though she didn’t say anything, I think she liked that I called her “she” and not “it” anymore. It felt more respectful.
By the time I was nine, there was always something to fight about. One day, my dad forgot to pick up the right groceries; another day, my mom was accused of having an affair. It was endless. Soon, it was routine to sit in my room and listen to them argue. I had no siblings to complain about it with, so I tried to fight the cacophony of aggression with my own. I listened to music on my CD player and sang along. I scribbled my drawings hard in my sketchbook; I ate chips so loudly I thought my teeth were going to break, yet the clamour of their anxieties underscored my evenings all the same. I held my stuffed animals as tight as possible because there was no one left to hold.
Despite this, I never felt truly alone. There was someone else, and she was outside my window every night. Every night, she travelled the sky at the same pace, drifting on an arc, unbothered by thunder or lightning, fog or hail. She never fought anyone, not the sun nor the stars, not even the clouds that would shroud her brilliance on stormy nights. Even on those nights when her radiance was snuffed out, I could feel her calmness as I laid in bed. I liked that about her. That didn’t mean there weren’t nights of celestial anger, when she was big and orange and hung over my world with a scrutinizing gaze. One night, she was the darkest red that I’ve ever seen, like a droplet of blood in the inkwell. I was afraid I did something during the day that scorned her, but then the next night arrived and she had returned to her usual silvery white. I liked that about her too. I liked consistency. I scrounged for consistency every fleeting moment I could.
One early spring evening, six months after I turned nine, my mom decided she wanted to take me out for dinner. After knocking gently, she opened my door with her usual greeting.
“Hi, honeybun.” She took a breath. “You wanna go to Wendy’s for dinner tonight?”
I never said no to Wendy’s. I left my pencils and crayons on the desk and followed her. We passed through the living room, where my dad was watching TV on the couch. They didn’t look at each other. She didn’t even tell him we were leaving. This was the part of home life I hated most: the cold shoulder treatment. After an argument, they would treat each other as if they didn’t exist, like one was a ghost lodging with the other. A chill would sweep through the rooms and an eerie silence nearly bursting with tension would haunt our house. It was so much worse than the swearing.
We got on our shoes and coats, Mom got her keys, and we went to the car. On the drive to Wendy’s, I spoke to her; that was a rarer event than I would like to admit.
“Mommy,” I said. “Why do you and Daddy fight so much?”
It took her an uncomfortably long time to answer. “We just tend to butt heads sometimes. It’s nothing to worry about. We’re in a rough patch, that’s all. I promise you, it’ll be over soon and we can all move on. Okay, hon?”
I wasn’t sure how I felt about her answer, so I didn’t respond. I only looked out the window back at the Moon. She had just begun her journey, cresting above the trees in the east. She followed me all the way to Wendy’s, and she didn’t mind me staring at her. She went through her hard times too. There were some nights, her New nights, where I couldn’t see her at all, not even a sliver. Those were the bad nights.
She was a New Moon on the night my parents got divorced.
My parents divorced the summer between fifth and sixth grade, and I was told to go with my mom. I didn’t mind it. I wouldn’t have minded going with my dad either. I didn’t care who I went with. We had to move into a smaller home because it was just the two of us. That meant a new neighbourhood, which meant a new school and new people.
On the first day I met a girl. She was friendly. Her name was Luna. I knew that because it was the first thing she told me when I took my seat next to her.
“I’m Luna. What’s your name?”
I told her my name.
“That’s a nice name. What does it mean?”
I was dumbfounded by the question. I didn’t know they had meanings. I thought they were just the word that you attach to a person so they know they’re the ones being spoken to.
“I don’t know what it means. Do you know what yours means?”
Her eyes sparkled at the opportunity to share. “It’s Latin. It means ‘Moon.’”
My heartbeat stuttered. Was “Luna” the Moon’s name? Or was it a human name that meant “moon”? I instinctively looked out the window to ask for her name, but only a bright blue sky looked back.
“That’s a nice name too. It’s good to meet you, Luna.”
When I took a second look at her, she sort of reminded me of the Moon. Her skin was pale, her face was round and freckled, and her smile formed craterous dimples in her cheeks. I knew I had to be friends with this girl.
We had a school dance in the seventh grade. I liked dancing. Not like ballet, where everything is regimented and precise. I liked the kind where you twist and lurch and throw your body because that’s what an indulgence of fun looks like. I spent most of the dance with Luna as she dragged me along to socialize with the rest of her friends. They were good people, but being around four other personalities as ecstatic as Luna left me feeling drained. Luna didn’t mind my slow quietness; she had enough spunk for the both of us.
Then, the part of the night that I most dreaded came along: the slow dance. As soon as I heard the mellow tempo and the first plucks of an acoustic guitar, I was about to turn around and spend the next five minutes fishing punch out of a plastic bowl. Before I could flee to the recesses of the gym, Luna caught me by the shoulder with her shimmery blue nails, the same blue as her halter dress.
“Wanna dance?” She looked at me with those brilliant green eyes, the ones that I couldn’t say no to.
I swallowed a huff and turned back to her. I was a bit taller than her, so she put her hands on my shoulders and I put mine on her waist. We swayed, not quite sure what to do with each other because we were thirteen. She put her head beneath my chin.
The song wasn’t long, only about four minutes. For four minutes, I danced with Luna. For those four minutes, I was looking out the window.
For my fifteenth birthday, I got a telescope from my dad. It was a William Optics model that wasn’t cheap, so it was the only gift I got from him that year. Fortunately, I didn’t want any other gifts. I set it up the moment it arrived and positioned the scope on her, thankful that I didn’t have our old oak obscuring my view. I always wanted to see what she looked like up close.
The divets of her craters added a texture to her that made my fingertips tingle. Splotches of dark upset her paleness and pricks of pure white made glittery markings on her face. I could see the way her shadow crept up her side to conceal the part of herself she wasn’t ready to reveal until her next full cycle. I could feel the pull of her orbital lock on the Earth, two spirits yearning for companionship but held at arm’s length in fear.
I had looked at countless pictures and art pieces, but I was still left unprepared for what I saw when I looked through the tube. It was like I was three again, seeing her for the first time. In a way, I was. I was seeing her, really seeing her, for the first time in 15 years. Somehow, I felt like she finally saw me, too.
Luna and I stayed friends for a long time. We went to the same high school together, had many of the same classes, and always ate lunch in the same corner of the cafeteria. Our main difference was her enthusiasm in clubs and committees while I remained mostly solitary, but it was safe to say that Luna was my best human friend. In tenth grade, our class choices began to drift apart. She liked science and I liked art. Because of that, we met new people, which meant our friend group got bigger and I became acquainted with more girlfriends and boyfriends.
As our cafeteria posse grew in numbers, the conversations began to mature and become more salacious. As I fished a handful of crackers out of a plastic baggie, Luna’s friend Cameron recounted the story of how he met his sporty girlfriend when he coached a kid’s soccer league last summer where she was a rival coach. Across from me, my friend Jaspreet lovingly told the story of how she met her girlfriend Aman during an online match and quickly fell in love, planning to meet her in Delhi when the next summer came. Then, the conversation turned to the single people in the crowd, including Luna and myself. They asked me if I was interested in anybody. I said no. They asked Luna the same question. She also said no. They looked at the both of us. I knew what they were going to say, and I knew I was going to wince when they did, and my instinct was correct. Luna laughed it off and I safely followed her.
That night, I went home and looked through my telescope. She was a Waning Gibbous, her shadow perched on the northern side of her axis like a Derby brim. I had a long talk with her—the longest I had with her up to then—about romance. Usually our talks were short because they were very one-sided, but I didn’t mind; I needed to let my old friend know how I felt even if she was glad to keep her thoughts to herself. That night was more of a vent, ramblings of love and romance and how I should yearn for petal-covered beds and wedding rings, but simply didn’t. No one in my school was of any interest to me, nor had they ever been. My mom would sometimes check in to see how far along my romantic progress I was, and whenever I responded with a null answer, I would see her eyes wilt in disappointment. On rare occasions I would get the same question from my dad, with a similar yet stunted response. Now it was coming from my friends as well. Every book and film I consumed told me what I felt wasn’t normal. But not just abnormal: it was wrong. My very person was the wrong answer.
I didn’t realize my eyes were wet until I looked up and saw her blur in my vision. I wiped my eyes and asked her, “Am I wrong?” She didn’t respond, as always. Yet that time, my heart ached. Maybe she thought the same but didn’t want to hurt me. Maybe she thought I was clingy. Maybe her serenity was really a cold shoulder.
Twenty minutes later, I asked Luna on a date over the phone.
I was surprised when Luna said yes to the first date. I was even more surprised when she asked for the second. We carried the title of “taken” for two years, despite the fact that I could still hear the hollowness in my voice when I would introduce her as my girlfriend. We went to prom together with matching colour palettes: white and grey with sparkling navy accents, her nails once again painted blue. People said how great we looked together as I meandered by the punch bowl. It was a New Moon that night.
Two weeks later, Luna invited me to escape the dreary haze of mid-July and venture north to her lakeside cottage. Buried in the thick of nature, the roads were dirt and bereft of streetlamps or shopfronts, meaning the nearest source of light pollution was a 30-minute drive away. She stressed that to me multiple times before our excursion to convince me to come. After five years of friendship and two years of ambiguous love, she caught onto my infatuation with the night sky. I clung onto the few bodies I could see in the city, but always pined for the majesty of night in the way we were meant to view it. Like the Moon herself, I saw many photographs of clear nights, but I learned when I was fifteen that monitors can’t display magic.
When twilight approached the lakefront, she led me outside with a gentle hand, telling me to cover my eyes. We walked in a straight line for what felt like forever, my shoes crunching sand, rocks, leaves, twigs, then shuffling through tall grass. All the while, my only anchoring sensation was a warm hand. We stopped, she let go, and nudged my chin upwards so my eyes were pointed skyward.
“Can I open them?” I asked playfully.
Her voice was brimming with excitement. “Yes, yes you can.”
My eyes opened. I do remember crying that time.
She was no isle unto herself as I thought, nor a harbour of safety against an unforgiving void. She was an island in a archipelago of wonder, the first violinist in a cosmic symphony of light and colour. She was the celestial mother of hundreds of glittering children. She was playful as she danced in her arc. Her dance was regimented and precise, yet it was still an indulgence of fun. She was achingly beautiful. I saw everything in her—Luna’s car wheels, my prom jacket’s buttons, Cameron’s soccer ball, everything simple and circular. Everything, including the silvery sheen of a wedding ring.
Luna rubbed my back as I fell to my knees. I didn’t have the heart to tell her why I wept. I looked at her and held the side of her pale, round, freckled face. She was my dearest friend, my closest confidante, the best human I’d ever met. But I was cursed to never love her the way she thought I did. My heart was stolen when I was three years old.
After our breakup, Luna and I remained friends. Even after she found a new partner to add onto her name, she never asked me why I stayed partnerless, so I never told her who I was in a relationship with. As far as she understood, I didn’t want to be with anybody, and that seemed to satisfy her.
I will admit, as the years have gone by, my skybound companionship leaves me feeling physically lonely. I can never hold my wife. She has no hair to run my fingers through, no hands to hold, no hips to pick her up by, and her face bears no lips to kiss. But I take solace in her ever-presence, knowing she will always be there no matter what happens here on Earth.
In my early 20s, I decided to enrol in flight school and quickly graduated to a fully licenced pilot. During long night flights, I like to drift through the clouds and gaze at her, closer to her than I ever am on the ground. She plays with the tides below and we exist in an orbital lock, just the two of us. I know as the decades pass and I inch closer to the great beyond, she’ll still be as young as when I met her and will always be glad to lend a sliver of her endless time to listen to my amorous ramblings.
I love that about her.
INDIA BROWN (she/her) is a Drama Studies undergraduate at UofT and an aspiring writer. She has a passion for creative fiction of all mediums, specializing in short stories and playwriting. She plans to make writing her career and loves to find story inspirations in all aspects of her life.
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