by: D.A. Cairns
Entrusting all hope in knowledge. Because knowledge is interesting. It’s powerful. It’s intoxicating even…
“The moon rotates on its own axis a hundred times slower than the earth,” he says stiffly, immediately gauging her face for a response.
“Really?” she asks.
She seems interested, but logic tells the selenologist that he has insufficient experience with women to correctly determine her level of engagement. He continues because he’s afraid of silence. “The dark spots are craters filled with basalt which is a very dense material.”
She picks up the salt shaker and jiggles it. “Is basalt like table salt?”
Hoping the smile he squeezes out does not reek of condescension, he answers, “Basalt is a dark-colored, fine-grained, igneous rock composed mainly of plagioclase and pyroxene minerals.”
With no response, other than a quizzical stare at the salt shaker to guide his next words, the selenologist’s lost for a moment. He resorts to knowledge because he knows that knowledge is interesting, powerful, even intoxicating. Whatever its effect, he has a plenteous supply, and he knows he must play his strong suit. Before he speaks, she asks a question. She’s hooked. She must be.
“How big is the moon?”
Although he knows the exact figure, he doesn’t want to show off too much so he says, “The moon is roughly three point eight billion hectares.” He lets the words float in the aromatic air between them. He’s an expert on the Moon so he knows what he’s talking about. There’s no question of his superior intellect, nor any doubt that she will yield to its force. But she’s so beautiful he can hardly breathe, and for the first time in his life he fears his normally irresistible attempts to assert himself via intellectual assault will fail. Shipwrecked by the storm of his emotions. The lighthouse of her eyes pulling him in closer rather than warning him away from the rocks. He feels, and it’s like the first time he has felt. What is it exactly? Extraordinary. He wants to be wrong. Why? Will she seize on his vulnerability? Will she be seduced by his weakness? He so wants her to.
“What star sign are you?”
She’s leaning forward across the table but he doesn’t know if it’s because she wants to be closer to him, or because she can’t hear properly over the noise of the busy restaurant. Her blonde hair falls around her face and onto her shoulders in soft fragrant curls. The question she asked is backed by bright green reptilian eyes which grip him and cause him to tremble. He doesn’t want to talk about pish-posh astrology. It’s so unscientific, it’s positively offensive. Yet he’s compelled to answer. Her liquid voice is truth serum. Her sexuality overwhelms him. She radiates seduction.
The woman bounces in her seat and her head moves around. She’s smiling, tittering. She’s excited by him being a Capricorn. This is so stupid. Insulting, but dammit if beauty was brains she’d give Einstein a run for his money. “Okay.” She takes a melodramatic breath. “Let’s see. Moon in Capricorn means you don’t like taking risks so you plan ahead, and you feel safe when you organize things, and try to cover all eventualities.”
Apparently, she’s waiting for the selenologist to respond in awe to her astrological sagacity. He’s amused rather than awestruck, so he holds his tongue.
“You come across as a bit cold because you aren’t comfortable with your feelings, and especially avoid sharing them with others. You also don’t like others pouring their hearts out to you. It’s just way too messy.”
He realizes, as he watches her elegantly sip her cocktail, that he doesn’t know her name. She asked permission to sit with him, and he consented out of courtesy. Despite feeling the onus was on the woman to initiate conversation due to the fact that she had invaded his space, the selenologist had spoken first. That had surprised him. This astrologer was right when she identified his need to control situations. That was why he started talking to her. He couldn’t stand the awkward and potentially embarrassing quiet. She had seemed perfectly at peace, and he found that disturbing. Remembering the onset of their discourse, he realized he had forgotten the typical opening pleasantries: simple greetings, introductions and mandatory small talk concerning the weather. The selenologist had dived straight into his comfort zone, his area of expertise.
“Call me Angel.”
He reaches for his glass of whiskey and recklessly empties it into his mouth. It burns his throat and he coughs. When he feels confident that he can speak, he can’t bring himself to call her Angel.
‘“I…” he begins, but can’t continue.
Undeterred by his sudden dysphasia, Angel leans forward once more and says, “Moon Signs help define our emotional development. They express the unconscious side of our personality. It explains why we do what we do.”
The selenologist musters his resolve and decides to attempt to regain control. “The Moon is a satellite which orbits our Earth in twenty seven days, seven hours, forty three minutes and eleven point six seconds.”
“Moon signs are a very accurate description of what a person is like,” Angel counters.
“People born under a Capricorn moon are usually very intelligent, with a deep respect for knowledge, and are adept at using it for their own benefit.”
“If you could drive a motor vehicle to the moon, although obviously you can’t, it would take one hundred and thirty days of continuous driving.”
“Authority and knowledge help you to feel more in control. You are afraid of rejection, and rarely at peace with yourself.”
With a stalemate thus established, the selenologist and the astrologist gaze into each other’s eyes, and are swallowed by the poignancy of the moment. He’s aware of blood rushing to his head and experiences breathlessness, so he looks for any similar signs of discomfort in Angel’s pretty face. He warns himself not to lower his eyes but the warning itself is enough to cause the action. If Angel notices his quick peek at her chest, she manifests no awareness. The war within him is exhausting. There is no sensible reason for him to resist her commanding charm. The pleasure he feels is terrifying and Angel offers nothing to suggest she means him any harm. Quite the contrary. Every word she said about him was true yet her tone is devoid of implied criticism. He could infer it if he wishes, but Angel completely lacks malice. He knows emotional vandalism: God knows how many times he’s been on the receiving end. This beautiful astrologer is the epitome of enigmatic. The selenologist intuits the significance of his next words so he chooses them carefully, editing and revising in his head as Angel persists in holding his gaze. It seems as though she worries that if she releases him, he will fall and shatter on the floor.
Finally, as the suspense threatens to detonate his conflicted mind, Angel averts her eyes and fumbles for her handbag at her feet. The selenologist slowly releases the breath he has been holding. He suspects every patron in the restaurant hears the hurricane howl as he exhales. Angel rummages in her bag and he watches, wondering.
She’s holding a business card which she places on the table in front of him as she stands. Smoothing down the front of her blouse draws his attention again to her chest but she’s not looking at him anymore. The spell is broken. Free of the enchantment, the selenologist reaches for his glass but he’s forgotten that it’s empty. He clings to it nonetheless. He glances down at the business card then up at Angel. Although ready to leave, she waits. What’s she waiting for? he thinks.
“We should talk again sometime. I’ve really enjoyed it,” she says. “Call me.”
The selenologist watches her leave. He’s dazed. His head spins as he picks up the business card and reads it. He’s drawn to the large font overlaying a photograph of a full moon. It says Capricorn Moon. He orders another whiskey and stares at the card. An unfamiliar rumble inside his heart shakes him and produces a strange sound which he hopes no one else hears. He recognizes the sound now. He’s heard other people refer to it as laughter.
Heavy metal lover and cricket tragic, D.A. Cairns lives on the south coast of New South Wales where he works as an English language teacher and writes stories in his very limited spare time. He has had over 50 short stories published (but who’s counting right?). He blogs at Square pegs and has authored four novels, Devolution, Loathe Your Neighbor, Ashmore Grief, and A Muddy Red River which is available now from Rogue Phoenix Press.