You won’t answer your phone the first time it rings, but you’ll know it’s me. I’m still in your contact list. You’ll tell me so on the fifth call, the one you finally answer. “Entropy,” you’ll say. “Laziness. Don’t read anything into it.”
I’ll let you have this one.
I’ll get to the point: in two days, a total solar eclipse will darken our hometown. I’ll remind you of a sixteen-year-old promise to watch it together. “When did we say that?” you’ll ask, and my words will conjure the living room of your college apartment: me on the couch in a pair of your boxers, astronomy textbook in my lap, you naked in the armchair smashing the Xbox controller, half-listening as I explain Gamma and Umbra and the Diamond Ring Effect. I find a page listing dates of eclipses for the next century and where best to view them. I see, printed there, the name of a place we avoid saying aloud, like the name of a demon or a ghost. “We could go back for that,” I say. “Only for that,” you say.
On your end of the line, a baby will cry. You’ll keep your word. I won’t ask what compels you.
We’ll meet at the motel and fuck before we even say hello. The sounds you make will sound like curses in a foreign language, harsh and a little silly, but your body will feel familiar. Sometimes I search out new photos of you just to look at your hands, to keep their shape committed to memory, to ensure that whatever else time alters your hands remain the hands I knew before. “The very same,” I’ll say aloud when I kiss your left palm, and you’ll be too far gone to ask what the hell I’m talking about.
We won’t linger. We’ll get in my car and drive around town. We’ll pretend our memories are fuzzier than they are – “Isn’t that where?” “Didn’t we there?” – like we don’t travel these roads every night in our minds to lull ourselves to sleep.
I won’t need GPS to find the barn where we used to get high and fool around. There are dozens like it scattered across the South, the words SEE RUBY FALLS emblazoned on the side facing the highway. This town sits three hundred miles from Ruby Falls. I’ve never been there, don’t even know what I’d find if I went, though as we make the old climb up to the roof of the barn, I’ll remind you of something I told you long ago: when I was a kid, I imagined Ruby Falls as a hail of gemstones tumbling over a glittering rock wall. I’ll recount how you rolled your eyes and said it was the goofiest thing you’d ever heard and how after, we split a forty and made out until the streetlights flickered on.
You’ll lay your head against my chest and call me your time capsule. I won’t explain how I hold onto these things hoping one day you’ll come to claim them.
The sky will dim. The air will cool. I’ll produce the special glasses I bought to protect our eyes, knowing you won’t have thought to bring your own, and we’ll laugh about how silly we look in them. Soon after, a car will pull onto the shoulder of the road. Its passengers will disembark – a mother, two boys. They won’t notice us at all. The mother will tell her sons how you don’t get many opportunities like this, not in one brief little lifetime.
Soon the moon will come, crescenting the sun. I’ll swear I feel the moment hum through me, through us both, through every atom on the planet, a buzzing promise. Cows in a nearby field will low in chorus. Coyotes will bark in the woods back towards town. The crescent will stretch into a corona then – “The Diamond Ring,” I’ll say, finger pointing heavenward. “Not diamond,” you’ll answer, and when I look again, I’ll see what you mean.
Light will pulse behind the moon, shifting first to orange then deepest red before it melts around the shadow, drips down from the sky.
Red rain will fall around us.
Not rain, hail.
Not hail, rubies.
Shrieking, hand in hand, we’ll leap from the roof and race away, past the mother and sons catching gems in their open shirts, marveling at the unexpected bounty. We’ll slide into the backseat of my car, reach again for one another as the rubies dent the hood and crack the windshield. A red rivulet will trickle from your head where a stone struck you, and when I kiss the wound, my lips will come away bloodied. “I told you so,” I’ll say, and you’ll holler, “You were right! Goddammit, you were right!” You’ll kiss me hard, and with your own bloodstained mouth you’ll proclaim the miracle, and I’ll believe at last we’re getting somewhere.
Sutton Strother is a writer and instructor living in New York. Their work has been featured in several publications including, most recently, Uncharted, Janus Literary, and HAD. You can find them tweeting @suttonstrother and read more of their work at suttonstrother.wordpress.com.