I saw her in the flicker of a light, in a kaleidoscope rain, dancing across her face, her bare arms, her faded blueish hair, caressing every freckle on her milky skin. I saw her from across the room, in my hands a drink that was five times stronger than I’ll ever be. My pulse was beating with the music that surrounded us. If I close my eyes now, I can still replay the rhythm of that music, thoroughly stored in my brain like a trigger, ready to be pulled and to blow up every last bit of who I am.
I watched her carefully, I followed the line of her fingers stroking the cold glass of her beer bottle, the way the muscles on her shoulders worked when she moved. The way her hair kept falling into her face and how she put it behind her ear, time and time again. In this moment, you know, we weren’t much. Just a misanthropic broke writer and a foreign looking girl. Her foreignness didn’t seem to be attached to her ethnicity, but rather she seemed to be foreign to this world. Seeing her did something to my eyes, like after living a lifetime in an ocean of unseen faces, they saw somebody for the first time, and they were pretty much blinded and in pain. I wanted to talk to her so desperately, but I couldn’t think of any word worthy of her attention. The passing seconds in which I just looked at her made me look more and more like a voyeur though, and I was awfully aware of it. Through slow but deep beats and flickers of colour she sat there, her mind so far gone, staring at a place that’s from beyond this planet, she was a perfectly still marble statue in a crowd of overly full paintings. Like a minimalist piano tune in the midst of a highly stimulating piece of electronical music. Like a house by the sea on that side of the island that nobody ever visits because the beaches are small and the dunes high. Like… like a black-and-white analogue photograph in an exhibition full of generic, highly edited digital photographs. And while everything else was so loud, she stood out with a silence still roaring in my ears.
The beat slightly changed, and she jerked and turned her head, her eyes still caught on something in a non-spacial distance, and she left her drink at the bar and left the room. I took my jacket and I followed her, a coward who didn’t know how to speak but who was too fascinated by her to let it go. Maybe it’s voyeurism, maybe it’s the way my eyes got slowly used to her light and found it surprisingly delicate. I saw her standing in the hall, rolling a cigarette with shaking hands, eventually dropping her filters, mumbling: “Damn it.” Her voice was quiet, distant, almost inaudible if one didn’t try to listen really closely. Before I could help myself, I had picked up the bag with her filters and held out my hand and with a small tender smile she took it from me. “Thank you, stranger.” I just smiled, then nodded awkwardly and said: “Anytime.” I noticed tiny notes written on her bag of filters and she noticed that I noticed, so she covered it with her hand. We were caught in these split seconds in which anything you could do would feel wrong and inappropriate, which includes just walking away and calling it a moment. Then, unexpectedly to be honest, she pulled away her hand with a quiet sigh.
“What is that?” I asked her in the most neutral tone I could find, and she looked to the ground and said “Just a list of places.” When I looked closer, I could make out some familiar names, but most of the names were just a collection of letters, some I’ve never seen. “I’m Ellie by the way”, she said and shook my hand, while I was just standing there, saying nothing. As her glance rested upon me, I cleared my throat and said: “Dan.” – “Well, then, Dan” she smiled and lit up her cigarette, “are you in the mood for a little trip?”
And so, the astronaut and the diver went to see the stars together.
I’ve tried writing about her more times that I could imagine, but the words would just never fit. I tried explaining our journeys to people in my life, but they would never listen, they would call me an impossible dreamer. But I’ve seen the astronaut, I know that she exists, I know that she’s real, and I know that flying and diving with her felt inexplicably free; like we were bursting out of our own frames. Just to be clear, this really happened, I am not a pathetic liar imagining something that has never happened. I really flew across the universe with Ellie. We’ve seen things nobody has ever seen. I finally understood where she rested her eyes, when she stood in that dark club and the lights danced on her face, and she was more of a feeling than a person. I finally saw where she came from, and why she felt foreign at first. We’ve been to all the planets together. Sometimes, when we’ve felt particularly sad about something, we travelled to the birth of a new galaxy and we sat on stardust, our legs swinging, and watched all this life being created right in front of our eyes. I’m not gonna lie, it was a very spectacular process, very beautiful indeed, sometimes this process took days or weeks. Once, Ellie fell asleep on my chest while a sun was burning up all around us, but she felt safe enough to sleep through it all. She was all about flying, she said she always felt light and endless when she was soaring through the air. It mattered so much to her. I’ve always been afraid of flying. How can you fly through the universe when taking the plane across the country is already torture? The secret lies within the pilot. In a plane, I’m never able to fully trust the pilot, however experienced and confident he might be. It was not so much him, I just thought about his unpredictable machine, and the weather, and the butterfly effect which could lead to an awful disaster, perhaps. I know he wanted to survive this as much as I did, but I couldn’t stop thinking, he’s just human. He’s prone to make mistakes. But with Ellie as my astronaut, I knew it couldn’t go wrong. I knew we wouldn’t get lost or lose our course. I knew we would never crash. Ellie was 100% safety. And when I fell into her and gave her my trust and my life, she knew what was at risk, and she always kept us safe.
I’ve always loved diving. I’ve always enjoyed how quiet life is underwater and how everything just seemed so far away. The sea for me was the universe for Ellie: A place that’s so boundless and wide and old that it felt like home right away, it felt like I could just be me for once. See, Ellie was never much of a diver, she couldn’t understand why I would prefer looking to the surface from underneath instead of looking at it from high above. She thought the view to be much more beautiful from the sky. But she followed me, and the first time we were diving through a planet covered entirely in water, she cried when the blue surrounded her like a lullaby, because she felt so loved like never before. My sea became her universe, and her universe became my sea and together, the entire world, all of the galaxies, everything belonged to us.
One day, the diver and the astronaut went to London, one of the few times we visited places on this planet right here, where I am typing this. She went there first and I followed her after a few days, and she asked me to meet at Picadilly Circus. When I arrived there, and saw its circular station with thousands of exits, like a star pointing anywhere in this world, I was scared. I was scared I would take the wrong turn, and lose her, forever. Because happiness like this is fragile, and it’s scary to be without the astronaut for a while, the one that keeps me flying, the one that keeps my head in the clouds. And I was worried she would suspend in the air, without me, without her diver who keeps her grounded. So when I stood at Picadilly Circus, I just remembered the rhythm of that night when I saw her for the first time, and I just started walking, and when I got out of the station, she stood there, in the crowd, her eyes closed, her blue hair grown out so far, her skinny arms stretched out wide, her freckled smile covering my body in a warmth that not even the burning sun could compete with. I was stupid to think we could really lose each other. We were destined to find each other in any time and place.
Until one day, in June, in a starless night, Ellie asked me for a favour. I would have done anything for her, so when she asked me to patiently wait on the Cornix in the Solar Linus galaxy, I did so without a doubt. She said, she was going to be back soon, she needs to look for something on her own, but it would be a little far, and that I should just wait for her on the Cornix. I gently kissed her goodbye and waved into the stars until my astronaut disappeared and could be seen no more. My heart was filled with expectation and excitedness and warmth for her return. Cornix was quite a dark planet. The Solar Linus galaxy is known for its bright, shining stars, since the theme of the galaxy is music, and on most planets you can find soft piano melodies swiping through the flourishing lands of the most breathtaking landscapes. On Cornix, everything was dark, the sun was shining for a total of three hours per Earth day, and the music was a dim, sinister bass tone, howling through a cold, stormy air like a demon. I was sitting on a mountain so high I could almost spot the next planet with my own eyes, and I was feeding the crows that visited me every now and then and I told them the story of my astronaut and me, the diver. I told them of a story so incredible like the universe and the sea themselves, and of a love so deep it could transcend anything if we wanted. They listened to my stories, just sat there, penetrating my soul with their stiff eyes. I sighed and tried telling myself that they’ve just never been in love, so what did I expect? A crow in a sad planet congratulating me for whom I’ve found?
When a year had passed and I was still waiting, one of the crows asked where this lover of whom I’ve been telling them every day was. They asked me where my astronaut had run off to. I just shrugged and smiled, but the waiting felt so tiring after an entire year. Ellie had promised me, so I believed she would come back. But when the second year had passed, I was wondering if she had left me forever. And I was faced with a decision as impossible as it could ever be: Would I wait for her to keep her promise and return, even if it took her hundreds of years? Or would I give in to the gravity that was pulling me back to Earth with such a hard grip, an abandoned diver? So I waited another year and I’ve lost all track of her among the stars. I couldn’t even remember in which direction she had left. So I returned to Earth on my own.
It’s been ten years since I’ve left Cornix, and I still catch myself wondering if maybe, maybe now she’s waiting for me there, sitting with the crows, telling them the story of an exceptional diver who has forsaken her. I am wondering whether she found happiness, in an adventure of her own, if she longed for freedom. I am wondering whether the sea had kept her on the ground too much. She was only really alive when she was flying and maybe I had been too heavy. Maybe the weight of the sea had been unbearable.
I’m still diving, without her. But I find myself enjoying the depths less. I can’t stand the bottom of the sea for longer than a few hours, something is dragging me back to the surface, to the light, to the air. I can’t watch the blue tones of colour the ocean harbours without thinking of her, and it hits me deep in my stomach and my heart to be without her. And I miss her madly, because after all this time, the sea with all its weight is drowning me.
But Ellie, oh she was the sweetest taste of vertigo I’ve ever tasted. Being with her, I just wanted to fall deep into her, to explore the weight of the entire universe, to not a single day being afraid we could fall, because despite the vertigo that shook me everytime she touched me with her cold fingertips or kissed me with such fire, I was always sure that she, she would be the one to fly me home.