365 days ago, you were sitting at a little round table in front of me. It was a cool day, with the light of the sun coming through big glass windows, and the way you were turned cast a shadow on the small dimple on your chest. How well I came to know that expanse of skin, never taken for granted by lips or fingertips.
I was filled with nothing but happiness in that moment. By that point, I planned on marrying you one day, as I had, perhaps a little foolishly, dreamed of building a life with you. The only thing left was figuring out how to convince you to dream a little bit too.
A few things have happened since we last spoke. Nothing important enough to mention if I ever bumped into an old lover and tried to make small talk. Except, perhaps, that my grandmother passed away, Aaron and Karen are expecting another child, and I started pursuing a lifelong dream of becoming an amateur astronomer.
In one class I learned the Sun’s distance from the Earth is about 400 times the Moon’s distance, and the Sun’s diameter is about 400 times the Moon’s diameter. It’s the fact that these ratios are approximately equal that causes the Sun and Moon to appear the same size when the three astronomical objects line up, creating the effect we observe during a total eclipse. If the Sun were any closer, we wouldn’t see the fierce corona that borders the shadow of the moon. Any further, and a ring of the Sun’s light would still be visible. It’s a phenomenon that’s unique in our solar system, due to the sheer improbability of these prerequisites occurring.
(I didn’t take this picture.)
Eclipses are a rare phenomenon. Total eclipses even more so; they occur every 18 months, at different locations, and never last more than a few minutes as the shadow moves along the ground at over 1700 km/h.
Maybe this is why some people chase them, making pilgrimages to locations where an eclipse is predicted to happen. One group even rented a plane and flew along the darkest part of the shadow cast by the moon as it traveled over the Earth, and artificially extended an eclipse from 7 minutes to 74 minutes. Which, in my book, is pretty awesome.
People who’ve been through an eclipse give similar accounts of the experience; it looks like night in a matter of minutes, it feels like the heat is being sucked out of the ground, the animals get all spooked out because they know something extraordinary is happening.
But the Moon is also drifting away from the Earth at a rate of 3.8 cm a year, which means there eventually won’t be any more total solar eclipses. We happen to be living in a time when we can still experience them, as future generations will only have second-hand accounts from our best words and pictures. They won’t be able to feel the change in the atmosphere, as the Sun hides behind the Moon for that brief moment. How fortunate we are to be able to experience this event, which not only requires the heavenly bodies to line up, but also requires us to be at the right place on the right planet at the right time.
I began to wonder what combination of forces brought us there, to sit in the warmth of spring in a sushi shop downtown. Why fate had delivered you to my office one morning, for you to toss your head back and giggle and walk away after I made some corny joke at our introduction.
We were two traveling bodies on our own paths that happened to align for a few spins around the sun. It was a beautiful accident, a gasoline rainbow, an experience as special as it was serendipitous that left me forever changed.
Every picture I took was to capture what I feared I’d never see again, and when our paths diverged, I kept looking at those photos, wondering what kept me drawn to these memories.
Then I realized it was because I didn’t want it to end. You were my eclipse, and I was a man on that plane, chasing a shadow.
Trying to live in your love a moment longer.