I am being cooked unevenly. The bonfire is melting aluminum cans at a moment's notice and I suspect my cheeks are next. I can feel the splotches of fire against my face, a sharp contrast to the bitter cold that needles at my ears, just inches away. When it gets too hot, I hide my face behind his back and press my cheek to the cool of his jacket. He is talking about stars.
He says to her, "You never see stars in New York City. If the city lights were just as pretty, I wouldn't mind. But yeah, it's nothing like it is out here." There is a quality of awe and appreciation in his voice that can't be mistaken. It makes me dizzy.
She stares into the fire and nods absently. Why should she care for stars? She's lived under them her entire life, these stars that seem to hang just above your head. For her, they're constellations and phases of matter, things to be studied and known. A moment passes in silence, save for the crackling of fuel and the lick of the flames. We've hit that point in the evening when it's nearly time to go, but everyone sits around quietly, reluctant to leave the warmth.
I say to him, more than her, "Aren't the flames gorgeous? Look at that blue. Wasn't it yellow a minute ago?" I inhale deeply, all wood smoke and crisp country air. This is magic to me.
"It's the temperature," she says dully. "The fire's getting hotter. I wonder if we could melt glass yet." But the empty bottle stays in her hand, apathetic.
Ten minutes later we are leaving, eager to drive home over winding roads. We huddle together under our quilt and lock-step toward the car, making our way through dewy grass and patches of fog. I'm giddy from fresh air and the smell of beer on him. Breathlessly, I whisper, "It's not the stars that are so bright here. It's you."