Pastiche of piece written and inspired by Valeria Lima
The moonless sky was filled with stars and although we were standing together on the side of the highway, with so few cars passing, we could barely see one another.
“I saw it over there,” I said, pointing to a spot above some distant mountain peaks.
“OK,” said Benoit, zipping up his coat. “Let’s see this ‘aurora borealis’ as you put it.”
I could feel the arm of Benoit’s jacket next to my arm. Would he take my hand? Would I allow him if he tried?
“I don’t see anything,” he sang. Benoit is so good-natured, but he was tired and cold. Heck, we both were, having spent the better part of the day hiking up and down the autumn hills. It was ten at night and even a Latina like me, who can party all night and continue the next day at work as if nothing has happened, wished that I was soaking in a hot bubble bath. But I had never seen an aurora borealis before and knew that I wouldn’t again for God knows how many years. Just before, while driving home, I had looked out the passenger window and saw an exquisite play of green light just over the horizon. It flickered and shimmered, sometimes disappeared, and returned again stronger than ever. Now that the two of us were standing on the side of the road it seemed to have disappeared forever.
“Still nothing, Andrea,” Benoit said in his strongly accented English. “Are you sure it was over there?”
I couldn’t answer. I hate when these things happen. I’m extremely competitive and hate ever being wrong. But I know what I saw. How could this beautiful, slightly frightening, phenomenon suddenly vanish?
I leaned into Benoit’s body. Was he feeling anything for me? All day long we seemed to have connected, with a wink here, a smile there. But we were with our friends; five South Americans ‘foreigners’ living in Montreal and one Quebecois. I was friendly with everyone; that’s how I am. You will never know if I hate you until it’s too late, and then you’ll never get past my door again. It takes a long time for an injured heart to heal, you know?
But I dug Benoit, his long eyelashes, his sensuous lips, his easy laughter. I could see us together; no, seriously.
When the group split up after dinner, I knew that Benoit would be alone in his car and cheerfully volunteered to accompany him back to Montreal. “I know the way home,” I said, “even in the dark.”
Then, not ten minutes after we set out from St. Raphael, a small town in the Laurentians where we had dined, I saw the aurora in the distance. “Look, Benoit,” I cried, “Look! The sky is green!” Benoit had leaned over as far as a person can while still in control of a car. “I can’t see anything,” he said, and then I persuaded him to pull over.
I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I was turned on when Benoit leaned over me. It’s been months since I was with a man. I was just getting over Eduardo and he had been months ago. Was I ready to try again with someone new? Hell, yes! I was glad to be out of the car and breathing in the cool air. Cool down, Andrea, your blood is hot!
But I was so tired when I leaned into Benoit. I wasn’t thinking when I took his gloved hand into my two hands and rubbed them. “Wait a bit longer, Benoit,” I whispered, “It’ll come back.”
And what do you know? Two seconds after saying that it did come back like an answer to a prayer like my mother used to tell me happened in the cathedral back home in Asuncion, Paraguay (where I was born and lived until just a few years ago when I moved to Montreal).
It started as a flicker of yellow light which turned green and shot out in a whip-like manner into the middle of the sky.
“Christ,” Benoit said in French.
We both watched in fascinated silence. I forgot Benoit’s hand was in mine. The road was deserted, my energy restored, this moment forever etched into my mind. When we finally got back into the car and warmed up, for a change I had nothing to say (I am always cheerfully chirping about something). Benoit was quiet too and we didn’t want to listen to any music, which is unusual. I resolved to learn as much as I could about the Aurora Borealis, when and where it is most likely to be seen. Even though born in Montreal, Benoit had never seen one and we have just now gotten off the phone making plans about when we can go again, maybe next weekend, just the two of us.
I know from my research that it’s quickly approaching the time when it won’t come out again but I won’t tell Benoit that. Frankly, that moment on the road waiting for the “sky show” to appear was the most romantic thing to happen to me in a long time. If we end up at that spot doing the same thing, and if we end up seeing nothing, I know that I for onewon’t mind. A few more nights like that and for sure Benoit will be mine.