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In our part of the country, thunderstorms during the summer were humid and warm and damp. When they started, she would sit by the window, watching lightning fork the heavens. On this occasion, she playfully pulled me outside after the storm, dragging me to our spot on the outskirts of the city. This was our special place, a place where no one could reach us, see us, where the poison of noise and sound and people were far, far away. We raced up the hill, slipping when we got to the top and tumbling onto grass. After laughing about it for awhile, she suddenly became pensive. I lay on my back, my arms behind my head, while she sat cross-legged, leaning back on her hands, staring into space. I tilted my head up too. The clouds had cleared, and Milky Way was splattered across the dark, velvet canvas that was the sky. A million bright points of light shined above us.
“What are you thinking about?” I asked.
She was quiet for a moment. Then, she spoke. “Those are Deneb, Altair, and Vega,” she said, pointing to three inconspicuous stars. “Together, they make up the Summer Triangle.” I waited patiently for her to finish. “Do you know the story of Altair and Vega?” I gave a negative, and she sighed, then began to tell me.
“Altair and Vega were lovers. They worked together in the sky. Altair was a cowherd, and Vega was a weaver. However, when they fell in love, they began to slack off. Instead of doing their jobs, they would secretly meet with each other. The sky god grew angry, and forbid the two from seeing each other ever again. Their love, though, was stronger than even the sky god’s rule. And so, every July 7th, a flock of magpies will form a bridge so that the two can reunite.”
“That’s a cool story,” I mused after she had finished. “But what does Deneb have to do with them?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted, laughing. “Maybe he’s the third wheel. Or she.”
“So how does the Summer Triangle relate to your thoughts, anyway?”
Again, she fell silent. “There are so many stars up there,” she finally said, slowly lowering herself until she lay flat on the grass, her eyes riveted by the night sky. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could float there amongst them?”
“Well, I don’t think so. We’d die from lack of oxygen immediate – oof!” Her hand, clenched in a fast, landed hard on my stomach.
“Don’t take it so literally,” she growled, scowling. We watched the heavens for a few minutes. A shooting star passed by.
“Hey,” she said suddenly. “Let’s count the stars.”
“Are you crazy? There’s an infinite number of them.”
“COUNT them!” she insisted. “They say that if you count all of the stars in one night, your greatest wish will be granted.”
I sighed, resigned to my fate, yet amused at her childlike thinking process. “Okay. Fine.” I lifted my arm and pointed my finger at a star at the edge of the horizon, then started. We counted together, slowly.
“One, two, three…”
We made it to two hundred and thirty three before she fell asleep, her head resting on my chest, her body curled lightly into the crook of my arm. I heard her snoring, and I smiled to myself. I continued counting until I, too, fell asleep.