I sit at the edge of my balcony, staring out at the cloudless night sky. Over the city, pollution has dimmed the light of the stars, but the view tonight is still spectacular. The yellow moon is bright and full, and it’s so close I can see the alterations of light and shadow on its surface. Its power is overwhelming but not oppressive; rather than feeling small, I feel drunk. As I stare at it my mind seems to be pulled in a thousand different directions at once, chasing after the possibilities of my – and our – future.
I have to remind myself to breathe.
The moon hints at many things. For instance, it tells me that tonight is a night for talking to old friends. It’s not the only night, of course – it’s just a good opportunity. I take it gladly, and spend some time thinking over who I want to talk to. But I have no time to choose; behind me I can hear that one friend has already arrived.
“See, you’re not so hard to find,” she says as she opens the balcony door.
“I was worried I might be,” I reply. “That’s why I came outside.”
She smiles at me, joyful and energetic, her eyes deep pools of grey.
I drink in her image. “Did you cut your hair?”
“Yeah. Looks good, right?” She runs a hand through it as she comes over to sit beside me.
“Shorter than last time,” I laugh. I give my own hair a little toss. It’s definitely longer than I would prefer, and it just keeps growing.
“I like short hair,” she says. “What’s wrong with that? Anyway, I haven’t seen you in so long!”
“It’s been a few months, right?”
“Something like it… I don’t know. Time seems to flow differently nowadays…” She closes her eyes, brow furrowed slightly as if intently concentrating on something.
Watching her, I say quickly, “That’s okay. Sorry for being… I don’t know. Inconsiderate.”
She looks at me and beams. “It’s not inconsiderate. I’m glad you’re talking to me! I miss you.”
I reach for her hand by reflex, and regret it immediately. But she happily reciprocates, locking her slim fingers with mine. Embarrassed, I tell her, “I miss you too.”
“It gets kind of lonely…” She trails off and then gives me another of her trademark energetic smiles, but this one is a little on the wild side. “By the way, I like it when you play music for me. Thank you.”
“Of course!” I say. “I think it’s so much more meaningful than… you know, flowers and wine and stuff…”
“My little brother leaves me wine sometimes. He knows I don’t like wine! People’s likes and dislikes don’t change just because they die… I bet he does it to spite me a little.”
“Is he still mad?”
She nods. “He’s got all of this anger locked in his heart. And don’t get me wrong, I know he has a right to be angry at me, but I just wish he would learn to… let go a little, I guess.”
I smile faintly. “He’ll learn. Just give him some time.”
After a few seconds of silence she gives me an odd sideways look. “And what about you?”
“What about me?” I ask, surprised.
“Are you mad?”
“Me?” I shake my head and reply honestly, “I was never mad.”
She leans toward me, still holding my hand, and her face takes on that wild look again. “Define ‘mad’,” she says persistently.
I throw my head back and laugh. “You’ve caught me. You were always good at that.”
The compliment doesn’t even throw her off. She leans her face toward me a little more and speaks in a determined voice. “So you are angry?”
I raise my free left hand to my face and rub my eyes as I try to find an answer. “I’m not angry in the usual sense of the word,” I say. “It’s more like… I wish you hadn’t gone and died on me, that kind of feeling.”
“So you’re like my brother,” she comments. “Just not so intense, right?”
“Not so intense as to leave wine at your grave,” I laugh. “My, I’ve missed you. The way you joke around, the way you create the perfect lead in for my own jokes… you’re brilliant with words, you know? I never told you that.”
She blushes a little. “You really think so?”
“Absolutely brilliant,” I affirm.
Grinning, she turns away with satisfaction and looks out at the city sprawled below us. Then she raises her head and gives a low, contented sigh. “The moon is pretty tonight…”
I nod. “I’m glad you’re here to see it with me.”
She pushes on my shoulder playfully. “Reminds you of the time we met, right?”
“Tell me something, Haku.”
“Did you really want to see me tonight?”
I look at her with surprise. “Of course,” I say, but as soon as the words are out of my mouth I begin to feel guilty, and she knows it. But the new expression that crosses her face lacks any sense of jealousy or hurt feelings; instead she seems concerned for me. As soon as I see this I think: I never once deserved this woman…
“My dad died last month,” I tell her. “I’ve been meaning to go see him, but it’s hard… Especially for my mother and all. So when I saw the full moon tonight… I was thinking of him.”
Her grip on my hand tightens. She glances away for a moment while she tries to string together an answer – we both hate the robotic, meaningless I’m sorry for your loss that gets thrown around so often. Finally she returns her gaze to me and says with overwhelming compassion, “The night’s not over yet, so I’m going to go, and then you can talk to your father, okay?”
I start to choke up. “Wait, hold on, that’s not what I…”
Determined, she lets go of my hand and stands up. I rise with her as she says firmly, “Haku, my sense of time might be degrading, but even I know I’ve been dead for a long while. At any rate, you come see me pretty often, and you play music for me and talk with me, so you know what? I’m blessed to have so much time with you. And right now your dad isn’t so lucky. So I’m going to go, and you can talk to your dad.”
I search for words. For a minute we stand in silence, facing each other on the balcony, enveloped in the yellow-white light of the full moon. In the end all I can manage is a heavy, passionate “Thank you”.
She gazes into my eyes and smiles wide. “Come see me soon, I’m getting lonely…”
Then she heads back inside and vanishes from my sight.
I bite my lip, trying not to cry, and return to the edge of the balcony to wait for my father.