And another thing about Leisa: she never believed me about the UFOs. Or the ghosts either. Spirits, whatever, I saw something, saw things all the time actually, and she always told me to take some NyQuil and go to bed.
She just didn’t get it. That’s why it never would have worked between us. When I asked her about her birth certificate she asked if I was planning to steal her identity. No, I said, I just want to know exactly when you were born so I can find out if we’re astrologically compatible.
Kiss me under the stars, she said. Then we’ll know.
So that’s what I did. It was pretty romantic actually. But we never would have worked long term. She was always stealing my hairbrush. Her hair was so thick it broke the bristles.
“Your ex sounds like a real stick in the mud,” Roy says now. “Where were you that you could see stars anyway?”
“Way upstate. I visited her when she first started field research for her thesis.”
“What about your thesis? Did that take a backseat?”
“I’m never gonna finish my thesis.”
“Well we can see half the city from here. It’s better than the stars.”
I nod, probably not convincingly. “Anyway,” I say. “You wanna see my UFO picture?”
“I think they call them UAPs now.”
“I’m surprised you knew that.”
“Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.”
“Impressive. See these three lights?” I took a bunch of pictures one after the other that night and this was the only one with the lights. Leisa was inside when I took the picture. If she had been there, maybe she would have seen something with her eyes while I was scrunched over my phone. Maybe then she would have believed me.
“Yeah, that’s something alright,” Roy says. “Pretty crazy that you could pick it up on such a crappy camera.”
“Leisa said it was a satellite.”
“No, look there. It’s like these lights are forming around something. Some kind of invisible craft.”
“That’s exactly what I said! An invisible craft! I caught it phasing in and out or glitching.”
“You got something there, that’s for sure.”
I let him kiss me for saying that. His lips are soft, almost too soft, but his beard is coarse and rough. It reminds me of Leisa’s hair. I pull away and see he’s concentrating suddenly, like he’s doing math. I look up to give him a second but I can’t see anything at all in the sky beyond the buildings. Which doesn’t mean there’s nothing there. There’s just too much light pollution to see.
“You can ask me about my birth certificate if you want,” Roy says.
“Okay. Where and when were you born?”
“Well what does your birth certificate say?”
“I don’t have a birth certificate.”
“Oh.” I don’t know if asking him why would offend him or if he’s joking or what, but I’m having trouble caring. I met Roy on an app. He was conventionally attractive and seemed vaguely interested in the supernatural, which was enough for me to swipe right.
We talked for a while, about school stuff mostly, but this is our first date. We went for drinks and I had a beer. He had six shots, then acted like nothing changed. It was pretty weird. Now here we are, alone by the river, which is as opaque as the sky.
“So is it hopeless?” he asks.
“Is what hopeless?”
“Are we hopeless? Star-crossed?” He’s smirking under his beard I think. “Are you gonna go back to your ex? You seem to really miss her.”
“She’s not interested in me anymore. She’s married to her research.” This isn’t strictly true. Leisa would take me back if only I changed everything about myself.
“Is she here in the city?”
“No, she stayed upstate. She’s probably gonna get a job offer from a lab up there.”
“So she’s not about to jump out from behind me?”
“We’re really alone.”
“And you wanna give me a chance.”
“Sure, why not?” I’m so happy he doesn’t know where I live.
“Cool.” I smile and then the lights go out. First the park lamps flicker off, then the lights across the river. As my eyes adjust to the darkness I catch Roy’s beard melting off his face like lava. I see his jaw unhinge and the teeth fall out of his mouth like dice. I see his skin reflect light that isn’t there above us anymore. Maybe his strange body makes its own light.
Then something invisible goes visible again above Roy’s head. Three blinking eyes, then void, space, starless sky.
“It’s supposed to be a full moon tonight,” I say. “But where’s the moon?”
He gestures with a stretched out Silly Putty arm, and there’s the moon, suddenly huge, the one light in the sky now getting closer, closer, closer as I go up, up, up.
Meanwhile, I’m disappearing. I’m becoming invisible.
Roy is just vapor now. I can sense him in the air around me as I turn translucent. My stomach drops and I feel incredibly heavy, even as I float up above the river. Something inside me sounds like it’s sloshing around, then draining from somewhere, down into the water below I guess. It’s a gross sound, like a toilet flushing. I feel warm and sick and made of liquid: beer and body fluids.
But something brings me comfort as I float and fade. I don’t panic, not really, because at the end of the day I was right. Aliens are real, UFOs and UAPs yadda yadda, and they know I know, and that makes me important. Desirable, in a way.
Soon I’ll be very close to the stars, closer than ever before.
Justine Talbot is a writer from Long Island, New York. Her stories have appeared in FLAPPERHOUSE, Fearsome Critters, Constellations, Foliate Oak, Riggwelter, and The Bookends Review.