“Wow, you weren’t kidding, you really can see ten times as many stars from here,” Sati marveled to her companion. “I don’t think I have seen anything even close since my family went on vacation to New Mexico when I was fifteen.”
“You didn’t think I would drive us all the way out here if it wasn’t pretty amazing, did you?” responded the the man named Joey whom Sati had been dating for about three weeks. “Anyhow, this is where I spent a good deal of my late teens. Smoking weed on this bridge and staring at the sky.”
“I love how you can hear the river while looking at the stars. It’s like that thing with Pink Floyd and Wizard of Oz, like they were made to accompany one another.”
Joey stared at her with absolute admiration, watching her watch the stars, and wondering what amazing things she was about to say that would blow his mind. In the three weeks he had known Sati she had kept him reeling with her insight and intelligence. Although they were both in their mid thirties, she made him feel like a teenager again. Like everything was new and full of possibility. Like hope was a foregone conclusion of existence.
“Me and my friends used to combine that movie with different albums, and surprisingly, several of them worked just as well,” Joey replied, suddenly concerned she would take his comment as disregard or correction, which is not how he meant it. “Then again, we were usually pretty high, so that might have had a lot to do with it. We should try it together sometime.”
Sati gave him one of her enormous smiles, lip gloss shimmering in the moonlight, “You know what, I’d like that.”
The two of them sat on the edge of the bridge, legs hanging off the side into the darkness of the moonlorn night below, trading ideas for albums they would like to try combining with the classic family film. The decided to start with White Blood Cells by the White Stripes, as it was agreed that Meg’s drumming had some serious Munchkinland potential.
After that they sat in silence for several minutes, holding hands and enjoying the view. Joey found his companion just as alluring in silence as he did when she was waxing philosophical, as she was wont to do. A lightning bug flying high temporarily tricked him into thinking he saw a UFO.
“Do you think there other intelligent beings out there somewhere?” he asked, inspired by the visual misinterpretation.
“I am not even sure there is an ‘out there’ in the sense which you are referring. Perhaps it is all blank canvas, and the cluster of minds collectively known as Earth are projecting our combined imagination onto that unformed void,” she spoke in her philosophical waxing voice, which was somewhere between academic lecture and gleeful reverie.
“Right, because reality is essentially mental, not physical, right?” he hoped to impress her with those words.
“Right the fuck on, bud. Now you’re getting it!” Sati teased as she leaned over and gave him a good tickling, which was the only entry in the list of cons he had on her. So far it was all pro, otherwise.
On their very first date Sati had brought up her issues with realism, materialism and the whole of “modernist dogmas” as she called them. Joey had never considered all the logic and perspectives she introduced him to, and since he didn’t have any real conviction for the normative Western explanations of reality, he was more than happy to follow her down this almost alien ideological path. He laid in bed at night, unable to sleep, thinking about concepts like philosophical idealism, epistemological solipsism and intersubjectivity, which he could still barely keep straight in his thoughts. Even through the discomfort of her tickle attack, he felt a surge of pride that he was beginning to be able to speak somewhat on her level.
Sati laughed as she retreated from the tickle tackle and then leaned back over quickly and gave him a kiss. Before he could wonder if it had been an invitation to make out, she leapt to her feet and tugged at him to do the same, “So, ready to show me the next bridge? Or is it the ghost town next?”
Joey had grown up around here, but now lived a few hours away. He spent a good portion of his adolescence and early adulthood driving around on these central Iowa gravel roads, hanging out on bridges, old cemeteries and whatever remnants remained of the past that had not yet been farmed over. Last weekend they went on a road trip to the town she had grown up at in Wisconsin, and she insisted they spend this weekend exploring his past together, so he was giving her a full tour of the only part of his hometown he missed, all the stuff outside of it.
As they drove to the next location she continued the previous conversation about the nature of space. “Have you ever seen all those crazy photos from the Mars Rover expeditions? Like cats and spoons and statues and brooms? Maybe that is just us filling in the blank space as it is under construction. Those images are like a sign that tells you there will be a brand new strip mall on an empty lot at the edge of town six months from now. Our minds just fill in the space with whatever junk is in the closet of our collective transpersonal narrative.”
Joey filed ‘collective transpersonal narrative’ away to contemplate later. And to Google, though even Google couldn’t always explain the wonderful things that emerged from Sati’s mind. The drive was a short one, and they had sat parked on the bridge for fifteen minutes while she finished her spiel on non-realist cosmology, which he found absolutely captivating.
When she was finished she looked out the window and gave a dismissive shrug, “Yeah, you were right, nowhere near as cool as the first one. Let’s go to the ghost town now!”
Both of them had a fondness for abandoned places, which is how they met. He had been given the opportunity by a small local cinema to show his documentary on the ghost towns of Iowa, and she introduced herself afterwards, praising his work. From that moment until now they had spent about half of their time together.
They drove in silence for a few minutes and then Sati spoke, this time in a softer, less confident tone, “Joey…I don’t think I have ever been in love. To be honest, I’m not sure that I can. It’s just so much work. But I really like you, and I want to try. I see that look in your eye and it frightens me. It triggers some primal fight or flight impulse, and I’m tired of running. So I was thinking of maybe fighting until, well maybe, it gets easier to join you than beat you. Figuratively. Joey?”
The car was now stopped. Joey had said nothing, just got out of the car and now stood behind it facing away. Sati waited a moment and then got out and joined him. When she was able to see his face it was not what she expected, which was something like shame or dejection. Instead his face was fixed with a warm, enormous smile, as though he were just about to break out laughing. Then his cheeks puffed up and his expression turned to alarm, before suddenly bending over and disgorging the pizza they shared a few hours ago. When he was done he let out an embarrassed giggle, and Sati took off her scarf and wiped the vomit from his lips and chin.
“If we were in a romantic comedy this is where I would kiss you to show that I didn’t even care that you had just puked, but it’s not – I won’t – and I do. But if you play your cards right I might let you fingerbang me when we get to the ghost town, and maybe even give you a tugger in return.”
But then he looked so excited and cute that she decided just to kiss him anyway, and she thought, “Take that, Judd Apatow,” as she watched a star shoot across the sky like some kind of cliche omen of love, and almost puked herself. Right into his mouth. Or maybe it was just his breath.