It’s Friday evening and I’m deliberating whether or not to drive somewhere far. Nathan flutters about the apartment, drink in hand, rearranging his living room things. At some point he opens the back of his guitar amp to fix a piece that had come off — we’re trying to fix an annoying buzz from my cheap projector’s audio output. He educates me on the basics of ground loops and remarks upon how terrible the engineering must have been for this device; after more thought my brilliant friend decides he will run the audio through his guitar effects pedal to filter the signal.
Beyond making Charlie Day’s voice sound funnier than it already is, the pedal doesn’t help. We have a few moments of amusement with the various guitar effects then give up to watch an episode of Sunny. Mid-episode he’s on the phone with Kimbo and I’m thinking I should head out soon if I want to escape artificial light.
At 10:30pm I tell Nathan I’m heading out to Gilroy and that he should come with, but he’s got a headache so he doesn’t want to go all the way to Gilroy. I don’t try to sell it any more than that; part of me is happy to have some alone time.
I haven’t wanted alone time for a long while now and I still don’t, it’s just the second-best thing I can have on nights like this.
The stars are comforting, reminding me that we still exist together under the same celestial canopy despite distance; at least you haven’t taken off to the moon. I begin driving toward the San Luis Reservoir (in case Gilroy isn’t far enough and I want to head toward I-5), starting the playlist from that Kishi Bashi song.
And if you fly into the sky
And if your body is a penny and dime
Ready to throw it in the fountain of my many monies
I screw up with one traffic light but it isn’t long before opportunity presents itself and I hammer a yellow. The night is full of untentative wishes.
There are more cars on the opposite side of this dark road, their headlights collectively blinding. I open the sunroof and take my eyes off the road for little stretches as if to reassure myself that the stars haven’t all fallen out of the sky ahead of schedule; I must invoke their magic tonight. It’s hard to tell from the car whether I’ve found a good place to exit so I don’t stop prematurely though it is tempting. I must be patient.
Driving this road down to paradise
Letting the sun light into my eyes
Our only plan is to improvise
Garlic aromas tell me I’m in Gilroy but glancing again at the sky I decide to skip two promising exits. “Can’t risk clouds,” I speed up, they eat my dust. Dancy new Coldplay has me driving fast.
Steady 90mph on the 152 toward I-5. Now streetlights are nowhere to be seen and traffic thins. I pass multiple cars stopped on the side of the road; they’re probably trying to see shooting stars also. Tempted to stop for the view but it’s still too low and too early, I seek higher elevations. I want to be as close to the sky as possible even if the closeness is marginal.
I’m up on the sky and the dream’s so blue
I live in the sky
You come live here too
Finally GPS tells me that I am within eight miles of the San Luis Reservoir and the night seems dark enough to satisfy. I start looking for an exit: a recreational area catches my eye. But this first attempt is foiled by parkranger-type dudes. I roll down my window to hear one of them bark at me: “This area is closed sir, turn your car around.”
I take the next exit, a road exit that leads to some desolate hilltop off the highway. This old V4 engine winds upward, shaking, struggling. When the highway is no longer in view I pull to the shoulder and turn off the engine. Minutes pass, my eyes adjust to the darkness, and I notice another vehicle parked on this strange hill. It’s a big car, an SUV. Hard to tell exactly but I think there is a family inside? I’m not sure how they are looking at the sky.
The wind howls and the Swagon shakes — I can’t see more than two feet out. Grabbing a blanket I try to go outside but the intense winds make me realize that this isn’t going to be a quiet stargazing session. My eyes lose their moisture within moments of contact with the arid currents, I feel the skin rippling on my cheeks. WHOOSHHHHHHHHHHHH. It’s so loud.
And I spent my evenings pullin’ stars out of the sky
And I’d arrange them on the lawn where I would lie
And in the wind I’d taste the dreams of distant lives
My eyes are finally adjusted and I’m peering up through the open sunroof at a shimmering sky. There are so many stars, my urban American eyes can’t believe how many stars there are. But where are the meteors? And I feel enclosed — why am I not outdoors?
Lights startle me. The other car is pulling out. I didn’t hear their engine start the wind is so loud — I watch the red taillights fade in the distance. They’re gone now, and I’m alone.
Tying a blanket around my legs, donning my drug rug and pulling up the hood to cover my ears, I hoist myself up through the sunroof. It’s windy but at least I’m not lying on the dusty rocks. I slide back and feel my weight flex the car top. “No way this would support two people, I shouldn’t even be up here.” But the sky is full like this; no angle is obscured. It is beautiful.
‘Cause in a sky, ’cause in a sky full of stars
I think I see you
Gale-force winds and intangibles flush through me as though my skin is no more than a permeable mesh. My eyes are dry and I squint, straining to keep them open despite this thirsty, fast-moving air. It takes minutes of staring for me to notice that many of the overhead specks are moving. More minutes and I notice these restless ones disappearing as well — they’re falling stars.
I’m finding it difficult to make any wishes. Maybe this is because because in the moment I’m harboring one particular longing and it’s so intense that it’s giving me tunnel vision. Maybe minutes aren’t minutes.
Long moments pass in loud silence. Eventually I ruin my night vision by checking the phone: an hour has gone by since I first climbed atop the car.
My hands are so so cold; the night is at its end. I carefully lower myself into the driver’s seat. A few last moments looking through the roof’s window and listening to the billows of my pulse, then that “grrrrrrrr,” the station wagon waking to take me home.
Glimmering, glistening, I’ll see her tomorrow night
Waiting for my traveling light