They met one year, on the Night of the Perseids, this is what each of them said, because it remained like some sort of Holiday. They sat on the moonlit meadow, among other people who had come to see the meteor shower. She asked him for light, he said he didn’t smoke, so she looked at him closely. A man who didn’t smoke seemed to her something rare and a bit off. But, after all, we choose our social circle according to our own preferences, and she remembered some of her friends were non-smokers, too, so the rule was not valid. All these thoughts crossed her mind in a split second, then she smiled and took a lighter from someone else. She had come with a friend, who’d had a hard time convincing her. She wasn’t really in the mood to sit out at night and watch the stars, but it was one thing she had never done before. It was hot, a scorching summer, and night had come with a breeze like a balm. It was noisy all around her, and some sort of camp had formed while people were waiting for the Perseids. Some were singing, others were telling stories and laughing. At some point, she caught him staring at her as she was blowing the cigarette smoke out of her lungs and she felt embarrassed, somehow. Like the time her father had caught her smoking. So he smiled at her and asked her if she had ever seen a meteor shower before. “ No, it’s for the first time”, she answered and suddenly threw away her half-smoked cigarette. He pretended he did not notice and he went on: “It’s interesting how people are fascinated by this phenomenon every year, when the Earth basically passes through the tail of comet, which collects everything it finds in its journey through the Universe”. “Yes, but how beautiful it all looks from down here!” she told him. He laughed, and she laughed, too, then they looked at each other. He thought she was one of the most beautiful women he had seen since he had started watching the Perseids. She thought he was one of the most interesting men she had met. But they didn’t tell each other these things. They talked about the Universe and the apparition of man, and when those around them started making more noise, they lifted their gaze and saw small shiny globes shooting across the sky, leaving behind a neon-like effect. Exclamations and applause could be heard around them, and she felt him take her hand and clutch it slightly. She clung to him and they watched the whole show on an indigo background, like a huge canvas, which would lift with the sunrise. “ About a thousand years from now, it seems the Earth will hit this comet with its thick tail”, he told her. “But we won’t be here anymore”, she answered. “Oh yes, we’ll be in the comet’s tail, as stardust”, he said. She tried to force a smile, but she didn’t find it funny. He lifted her chin, looked into her eyes and told her she was a sensible soul. She came close to him and let him hug her. She didn’t realise when they kissed, all she knew was that she was feeling great and she didn’t care about anything. She didn’t know how long they talked, what they talked about, everything compressed in a fluffy blanket that engulfed her. That was love.
Close to the break of dawn, she left with her friend, who had desperately looked for her in the crowd. She felt as though she could hardly move and she wasn’t in the mood to go home. When she got into bed next to her fiancé, he teased her, asking if stars had been given away by the bagful. She didn’t answer, and she heard him mumble something about women and nonsense.
Every year she went to the same spot to watch the Perseids, although they weren’t always visible. She didn’t meet him again. Asking around, among her friends, she found out her emigrated the very year they met. She looked him up on the internet, she found him, but she kept postponing making contact. One summer day, she wrote to him. She didn’t know whether he would answer, or what to expect, or if he even remembered her. Five years had gone by, in the meantime she had married the man who wasn’t interested in meteor showers. She didn’t love her husband, she thought she did until she saw the Perseids for the first time. And then nothing she believed was the same anymore.
He answered on her e-mail a few days later. He hadn’t forgotten her. He asked for her phone number and they spoke for over two hours. They also activated their webcams, they stared at each other for minutes on end. Then he told her she was the most beautiful woman he had seen since he had started watching the Perseids. And she confessed he was the most interesting man she had met after the Perseids. He was married, he had two twins, he didn’t mention anything about his wife, he worked a lot, in a country at the end of the world, when it was daytime when it was night-time where she was, and the other way around. He’d had his visa in his pocket when they had met, and he was afraid of what he could feel for her. He knew he was going to leave, he had worked hard to get that job, and he didn’t want anything to pull him back. She told him that she cried every year during the meteor shower, that she had been there, and that she’d thought she’d see him again. She got scared, she thought there was something wrong with her, and then she found out everything. He listened to her in silence, then he told her some of her energy came to him every year through the tail of the greedy comet, which collects everything it finds in its journey through the Universe. “And don’t cry ever again, I’m not stardust yet”, he tried to joke. Yes, he was live, she was talking to him, and that was all that mattered. When she hung up, she put out her half-smoked cigarette, like she used to do for the past five years, and she looked at the sky, out of the window. The news report said it would be “ the most intense meteor shower”.