Because I've casually used the term "eclipse," I have to elaborate. So I begin with tremendous frustration, "The syzygy is this: I am the sun and he is the moon and she is the earth — and we're all just fucking standing in the middle of Ferber, and it's 11 at night, and...my life is over, Priya."
I may confide in Priya with abandon, but at the end of the day I always decide that I dislike her, that she's a quack even if she doesn't have her doctorate yet, that she's nowhere near even the lawn seats overlooking the Scoville spectrum — and so death to that particular sample of Rate My Professors users with poor taste who, whether or not the woman has actually seen and reveled in it, still have given her the benefit of that omnipotent chili pepper.
But I'm sure she hates me too.
"So you consider this a religious experience," she says. She sits with perfect posture, and I know she is unbiased, that every cover letter she's ever written highlights her professionalism — but I can also smell her disapproval.
I tell her something true: "I hate having to explain this." She apologizes, her eyes on the ground.
I am talking to Priya about this moment, and she is the dart board to my fistful of darts, in that every now and then a part of the story will strike her in the right spot, inches closer to the bull's-eye, while the rest of the words I am saying miss completely, flying flaccidly into the wall or onto the floor. I pause to tell her this.
"Yes. But what more about Ferber?" she redirects me.
What's more about Ferber: I live on the second floor of Ferber East. My roommate, George, flunked the fall, so it's spring when I'm left to this converted single. George's mattress is my closet, George's dresser is my bookshelf. George's father's winter jacket, left here mid-move, sometimes is my winter jacket. It hangs alone on a hook George often used.
On the night in question, Jane is there. "She is perfect," I tell Priya, for context. Nobody is, but OK, she says with one look. Her adjunction is showing.
But Jane is petite, at 5'6", with hair that is wavy and apt to tangle for sensual purposes, fair skin but I'm not racist, round eyes you might call hazel in an eighth-grade poem. Jane has that name that makes me think of Tarzan. She wears, with modesty, a nude B-cup bra and a tie-dye shirt. But Jane's not a Deadhead. In fact, she's never smoked a thing in her life, and she's wearing sweatpants branded by the name of her high school and also: boys socks.
"Priya, Jane made popcorn in my microwave."
We met in philosophy class. From Hegel to Nietzsche. Sometimes she puts glasses on. She's from Buffalo.
The film is Batman Returns, and the last time she saw it she was 14, and she loved it, or so she tells me — and she likes that I have it on VHS, and that I tape black towels over the windows to muffle the light and as much of the noise from the quad that I can. We have movie nights that we're calling platonic, and yes, we are best friends, and she tells me first semester was lonely, and her roommate is a simple bitch, and she points to my beanbag and chuckles, "Cool beanbag," and she puts a Tropicana in my fridge, and I tell her Danny DeVito gives a truly remarkable performance, and does she remember when he bites that guy's nose?
I think I'd like Priya better if she asked me more questions like "Would you call it cuddling?" I am ready to answer that. I'd say, "I would."
The rotten astronomy takes place in an evilly brief plot of time I'd compare to a caterpillar's prick: slight yet undoubtedly scarring. I'd excused myself to the bathroom, four doors down my hall. Told Jane, "Pause it on the title card" because that just makes sense to me.
"I remember she giggled," I'm saying to Priya. "She giggled and said, 'All right, I'll be waiting,' as if maybe we'd bang, as if maybe I'd come back and she'd be in some negligee." Priya asks if this is about sex. I swear to her it's not. She urges me onward. She's watching the clock.
If I am the sun, I am risen from the restroom, having blotted nervously at my hair with faucet water, having only pissed a little — an amount you might legally call a tinkle. "I am the portrait of innocence" is something I actually tell Priya. She never writes this down.
The moon is the Terror of Ferber East, the guy I've dubbed "Agent Yacht" to a few of Jane's giggles past, the star of the security blotter in his naked splendor (his salmon shorts are crumpled in the doorway of his room). His ass is pasty, and on his back are scars from a lacrosse stick or two. Careful pimples on his shoulders. Sweat that'll taste like Rolling Rock if you try it. He is fit and stinks of reefer, and he is wielding his ruins of the day: a detached railing, likely from third-floor Ferber West, splintered and repurposed.
And then there is my earth, on the other side of the moon, and she's captivated, frozen. Her grip loosens on her Tropicana. There are a few stray kernels of popcorn at her feet. The moon breathes heavily. I have reason to believe she is trying to synchronize her own respiration pattern with his.
"Because it wrecked my life, it seemed like it lasted forever," I tell Priya. A few things I could add but don't: Space is infinite; terribleness is infinite; I thought of putting a knife in Agent Yacht's spleen.
"So then what happened?" Priya asks, and she's picking up her books.
"It ended fast in real time," I admit. What happened was: I made some kind of gurgle, and Yacht turned quickly to the sound, his member flopping with him — and he got real red, and he screamed into the void of second-floor Ferber East, "ALPHA — TAO — OMEGA!" before retreating to his smoky dorm.
And then Jane told me there'd been a loud crash, and she'd crept from my room to explore it, and "You know, I'm really tired, can we do this some other time?"
"Priya, she hurried together her things and left me alone with my TV" — as it projected Burton's title card, sad and still, save for a few traces of static that passed like hiccups, or EKG spikes.
Now Priya — this fake teacher, this ice queen — asks me passionlessly for an epilogue: "Where is Jane now?"
I recount just last week, on a walk to Burrito Junction, cutting down College Ave., and I see her outside a big house tattooed with spray paint letters, and she sees me, and I stop like I sometimes feel the earth does truly, and she's in some tight dress, and she's got some defunct Tropicana just sloshing around in a Nalgene, and I ask her, "What's up?" and she says, "Nothing, you?" and I say, "Where you going?" and Priya—
"She said, in the middle of a crowd, 'Out,' and walked directly inside."