I got an email this morning that cracked me up (figuratively speaking). It was from a lady who’d just finished reading Waiting For Spring. She wanted to know:
“Were you high when you wrote the scene where Tess and Brian get stoned and get it on ‘underneath the mischievous stars?'”
First of all, I love that she worded it that way. It’s been awhile since I’ve heard anyone use the phrase ‘get it on’ and it tickles me (figuratively speaking) to see that it’s making a comeback. Secondly, I love that she came right out and asked me if I was high. People I know personally (Hi Mom!! Hi Jim!! Hi “E”!!) have hinted about it, but never come right out and asked me. As you may imagine, it’s hard to answer an unasked question. But now that it’s been asked, I’ll come right out and tell you.
It depends on what your definition of “high” is.
I was, at the time of writing that particular section of the novel (actually, it was during one of my many rewriting/editing phases), suffering from the mother of all head colds. It was well after midnight on a frigid, starry November night and I was miserable. The Robitussin I’d taken an hour earlier wasn’t cutting it, so I reached for my big gun: Cherry Nyquil. I took triple the recommended dosage (because I was suffering three times as much as I’d ever suffered before), lay down on the couch (so as not to wake my beloved husband with my sniffling-sneezing-coughing-aching-stuffy head-fever-and-inability-to-rest), looked out the window at the stars and waited for sleep to claim me.
Instead, weird things started to happen to the stars. What was probably a combination of my virus-ridden watery eyes and the Dextromethorphan in the Nyquil made the stars appear to slowly swell, then burst in dozens of beautiful, fiery, colorful explosions. It was really cool. And as I watched it happen again and again, I thought to myself, “Tess would totally get a kick out of this.”
Even in this semi-altered reality, I knew I couldn’t waste the moment by remaining a spectator. I hopped up, swayed and stumbled to the computer, and banged out what is now the end of chapter 21…aka, the scene where Tess and Brian get stoned and get it on underneath the mischievous stars.
The stars, he said, were actually souls; all the souls that were too restless to be locked up in heaven. They were so restless that God let them stay outside at night to play.
It was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard him say, that I’d ever heard anyone say, and I forgot for a moment that he didn’t even believe in God. And when I did remember I still believed his words and I was thankful that He had chosen tonight to let so many restless souls out to play. I smiled up at them and they smiled right back. Giant prism smiles that shattered the white light into a thousand colors. They dripped all over the sky, slowly, just like hot candle wax. I tried to whisper to them, wanted to tell them that I knew their secret, but no words would form. They heard me though, or at least heard my thoughts, because they came in a little closer; so close I could touch them. I reached up, stretched as far as I could stretch while still lying on my back…and I swept my fingers across the cold, wet, colorful sky.
Brian reached up, too, but not for the stars. He grabbed my hand, brought it back down to Earth, and I think he knew, even though I didn’t tell him. I think he felt it all in my fingertips. Because he kissed them, each one, so gently, with precious, tender lips. And when he kissed my mouth I could taste the night on his lips and his tongue. Sweet honey words and neon stardust, and we made love, in slow motion, naked underneath the mischievous stars.
The night was chilly and the ground was cold, like I was lying on January’s carpet. But it soon melted away; the cold, the grass, the ground itself. It all evaporated and we were enveloped in its steam. Because Brian was burning with a heat more intense and pure than the sun. He was heat, the source of everything warm, and in that night of mist and haze and waxy skies his body was the only thing that was real, our love the only thing that was solid. The only solid thing in the world, in vast expanse of the universe. For a brief moment lucidity flickered, and I begged the starry, restless souls that it was true. That it would still be true even after the mists were gone and the haze wore off and the ground returned.
That it would always be true.