"Yes, the Sun Loves the Moon."
by Clairesse Schweig
The day she passed, the sun did not rise. It did not break through the morning air with a burst of light. Instead, it carried itself deep under blankets of dark, unrelenting sadness. Rapping itself too far beneath the sky that the only choice for a continuation of the new day was one draped in the melancholiness of gloomy weather. The sky, content with the solemnity of a storm, clouded with condensation and dissatisfaction.
The sun and I were the same. And it knew it too. We both cried, unwilling to recognize the loss of our perfect opposite. In that moment there would be no beams of bright light. No rays of warmth. No birds chirping at our brilliance or flowers cranking their long-stemmed necks to feel our overwhelming love bask upon their petals.
Two days later I woke up with a start. Had I not heard my alarm beeping, I would have assumed I had landed myself in the fiery hills of hell. Apparently, my allotted time for self-pity was up. It had enough. Wake up bitch, the sun shot. Yesterday we were comrades of grief, today it was the overly aggressive life coach one quietly complains of while being forced to pursue the most torturous part of the human experience: jogging. The beams of sun burned so brightly into the whites of my eyes, that I had to roll over to avoid their red hot assault.
“Alright. I get it.” I grunted, placing the slightest part of me which was relieved by the unintended encouragement, far beneath the lines of my furrowed brow and downward turned mouth.
I rubbed my eyes thoroughly, trying to clear my vision of any emotional reminsense that my tears failed to flush out the previous days. Closing my eyes once more, the sun’s light fought to break through the dark surface of my shut eyes, leaving light patterns of color to dance across my eyelids and into my mind: an escape. Slowly my refreshed eyes opened and scanned the room to which acted as the scene of my two day grief get-away.
My room was my sanctuary. It was the space I felt as close to the authenticity of my truest self as I have felt anywhere else in my life, and although my appearance compared to ten miles of bad road, as my father would jokingly insult, my room looked persteen. Around me, everything besides the unmade bed which had completely consumed my physicality, remained in its place. Records hung from the walls, pinned only to be taken down and consumed by the ragged player my father had given me somewhere near my sixteenth summer. Books lined the built-in shelves, organized by author, genre, even color. From every corner of the room plants blossomed and grew. I always loved the hopefulness and life that plants granted. I surprisingly had a green thumb or something of the sorts, as the plants I owned consistently doubled in size before my eyes. The greenery painted each square foot of my room softly, stretching and soothing the space with confident leaves and restless vines. However wild they grew, they remained contained to the spaces I had given them. Even the long-vined plant I had next to me, whose leaves mirrored the image of a perfectly drawn heart, wrapped itself carefully around the frame of my cast iron bed, not daring to invade any space unannounced. The plants thrived in the warmth of the room and the mutual benefits of the relationships they shared with me, but remained controlled and tidy, an ode to the togetherness and organization of the space itself. They too recognized my need for a well kept living space and conformed to the structure to which I required. But nevertheless, they grew fully, wallowing in the comfort of my care for them and the sun's grace of light reflecting here and there on their open and full leaves.
Finally ready to face the day, I swung my legs lazily off of the bed, throwing the pillows on the ground next to my feet as I began rearranging the tangled sheets. After remaking the bed and soothing out any persistent wrinkles that failed to iron with a swift swipe of my touch, I reached for the last throw pillow that had drifted beneath the dark frame of my bed. Kneeling down to reach the sage green tassels that hung from the pillow’s case, I noticed something just beyond it. Grabbing the unknown object softly, I returned the pillow to its desired place on the bed, thus completing the catalog image of the room around me.
I turned my attention to the cold and slightly heavy object that was occupying my grasp, and immediately rolled my eyes upon viewing it. A crystal–an amethyst to be exact–balanced in my hand.
“Gemma,” I scolded out softly, shaking my head.
She had given it to me the last time she saw me. No more than a year ago, but no less than six months. It was her way of caring, I guess. I had stopped by whatever house she was drifting to and from for that month, hoping she had finally planted her feet on solid and stable ground. Unsurprisingly, she hadn’t.
“For protection and connection,” she whispered when she handed me it, pressing the geode portion of it into the palm of my hand, and gently closed my fingers around the purple points of the crystalized stone, the rock as cold as the emotion within her eyes. She spoke to me like it was a secret, only spoken between her and I, as if letting anyone beyond the two of us know would destroy her. The sentiment was there, and even if I couldn't seem to wrap my analytical mind around a rock that could transit and hold energy, Gemma hoped to believe in its capabilities as much as she wished to believe in herself.
“Oh, um… thank you, Gemma, really,” I sang to her as sincerely as I could.
Every word I spoke to her always seemed coiled in the slight dissatisfaction of a daughter begging for a redefined mother, and never quite getting her way.
“It’s nothing really,” she said, turning her focus away from my eyes, attempting to guide me out and away from her vulnerability and back into the safety of a goodbye.
“Just hold on to it, if you want, or don’t….” her eyes finally shifted back to face mine, “whatever you want.”
I began turning away from her, sadly smiling in her direction, feeling just as bad for her as I regrettably did for myself. I quickly attempted to walk out the door into the dusk, the sun having just set, and the moon barely rising. Gemma reached for me suddenly, swiftly, pulling me towards her, holding my chin in her slender and ring-dressed hands. I tightened my grip on the amethyst in my hand, unsure what the demise of the moment unfolding between us would be. She studied my face thoroughly, forcing me to look directly into the cerulean sea within her eyes as she peered deep into mine.
“I’ll see you soon, my sun.”
She hadn’t planned on the constraints of motherhood. She was a free spirit, a non-conformer. Someone who would rather have the freedom to see and sleep with whoever, whenever and wherever she wanted to. So when a “connected” night between my father and her turned into a newly baked baby me, she fled. And my father, loving me for the kicking, screaming, wrinkled little thing I was, claimed me as his and left Gemma chain-less.
As a result, she was barely my mother beyond the blood. She would float into the eye-line of my horizon, gracing me with the momentary fullness of having a present mother, just to fade into a rising day leaving me to grow and bloom without knowing my worth to her. She was my Gemma, and I the tiny person who she had a monthly obligation to see, and impart motherly wisdom on. I say motherly loosely as the knowledge that Gemma granted me was not typical. She was the type of person who full heartedly played into the illusion of astrology, spiritualness and humanity. And although I admired her ability to find a connection with the life and spirit around her, I came from an upbringing based on skepticism, as did my father.
On a day like any other, she had scooped me up from Mrs. Jeffery’s sixth grade class and drove me to one of her favorite look outs in town. The hill itself overlooked the rugged and mesmerizing cliffs of our rural ocean town. I would listen to her murmur at the beauty of the resilient wildflowers building their roots within the ever present rocks, or the warm hug of the soft spring breeze bouncing off of the cascading waves. She spotted a blackbird perched off a slightly sturdy branch, not far from the bench we sat on overlooking the water.
“Oh I love blackbirds! Our essences are certainly intertwined,” she gawked.
I laughed to myself a little at her certainty. I mean I knew the Beatles song, my father passed along his impeccable taste in just about everything after all, but my ideas on Gemma were much more jaded, a darker sense of light. Confused by how she came upon this discovery, and even more concerned by how easily she accepted it, I decided to take an illogical leap.
“I am a blackbird too?”
She glanced down at me, looking hard into my eyes, studying the lines and curves of my youthful face and old soul. I stared back at her, the bright beams of the freshly thawed sun shining into my corneas, turning my brown eyes a warm shade of honey, a color only capable within the illumination of the sun. The gold starkly contrasted the cold and distant blue that occupied the center of her ever-shifting eyes.
“You, my darling, are not an animal. You are not a blackbird, or a daisy, or the ocean breeze. No, your world is connected to something entirely different. You are the sun.”
I nodded slowly, trying to recognize the sincerity of her words, and begging her to continue with this rare candid conversation.
“The sun does not begin each rise thinking only of its set. No, it shines in the morning, beams blazing in brilliant depth,” she brushed a strand of my sandy hair out of my face and continued.
“It is content with holding the sky throughout its passing in ignorant bliss. It has no concept of a day's end and a night's beginning.”
And thus began my first real personal connection with anything beyond the tangibility of my immediate reality. It was the first and last piece of wisdom I’d ever believed her to speak. Gemma said I was the sun and so the sun I was. And it stuck. At that moment, I named her too. I promised myself to recognize her flakiness and incompatibility with her role as my mother as the dark side of the sun's opposite. If I was Gemma’s sun then she would be my moon.
Even now, in my well seasoned and somehow overly optimist adult mind, it makes sense. We were equalizing forces. Equalizers, yes, but not equals. As one would rise, the other would fall. Constantly in a comfortable competition for which one of us would occupy the attention of the sky. Parallel forces in connection with each other, but never close enough to fully cohabitate the way I believed a mother and daughter should. I was left turning in the same direction with no hope of catching up.
There were moments, however, where we were graced with the complete happiness of each other’s attention. Blissful moments, like the beach that day, when competition faded away, where we were no longer forced to succumb to the tortuous cycles and tendencies of the universe we inhabited. Like sunrises and sunsets, no winner or loser, no life or death, just complete combined beauty. Brief moments where we balanced, face to face, both allowed us to appreciate the other's light and the fullness of the opposites’ hearts radiating through them, coloring the sky.
But like every subliminal moment, it would end. Bittersweetly the sun would set, the moon would regrettingly rise, neither wanting the other’s presence to fade, but both chained to our duty. One of us forced to fade away, die into the dark, in order for the other to live. Gemma would give me just enough hope that she could care for me the way I always needed a mother to, then she’d set. She would recognize the walls slowly falling down and immediately allow the thought of connection and the responsibility of being a mother rebuild the guard around her heart and mind. I would see it in her eyes. A switch would flip and her eyes would fade into the comfort of the fleeting night sky, forcing my sun filled soul to end my time in the sky, in order for her to rise alone into the night.
Shaking away the fog of memory, I set down the crystal and turned to the clock resting on the bedside table to my left. It read 9:03 a.m. Above it the botanical calendar painted by my father hung, opened to the month of August. He had given it to me as a gift, a recognition of both his kindness and my excessive need to be both planned and prepared. The bright image of a yellow sunflower entitled, Helianthus, covered the top of the calendar, as one large flower faced me head on and a smaller and more shaded flower bloomed slightly beneath it. Below the image, large red X’s marked each numbered day on the calendar that had passed, covering the notes I had added to my agenda and duties for each day. The X’s eventually guided me to today’s unmarked date. Plainly and simply, in black ink, strung together in the stickiness of cursive, the word funeral lay alone.
It had arrived. The day I was forced to stuff my overzealous self into my finest black dress and lead the calvary to the spot of dirt that the women who created and condemned me would fade into the earth. Far from the safety of my room, I stood in front of a crowd of assumed friends and family, none of which I knew as more than passing acquaintances, concentrating on my father’s supportingly somber face in the last row, and the beams of overly confident sun penetrating the large frames of my shaded glasses, there only to hide the tears that failed to fall from my eyes.
I spoke to those unfamiliar faces about who they believed my mother to be. How her life was filled to the brim with excitement and insanity. How she grabbed each moment and choice she had by the horns and enjoyed the rise and fall of the ride. I spoke about her love for the ocean, the cycles of our world, and the moon I associated her to. As an actor, I was grateful for my script. Grateful for the rehearsed and strung together sentences I collected beforehand in hopes of being both somber and eloquent, even when I felt like neither. I gave her a proper goodbye, filled with the self-serving purposes of a funeral, all about the living, never for the dead. A performance, sure, but an honest one at that.
The sun watched above me as I read my pre-rehearsed words. Its beams twinkled off the reflection of my glasses, casting certain figures within the crowd in spots of bright light. One woman particularly illuminated by the sun cried quietly into her hands, shaking her head in sadness as her shoulders bounced with silent sobs. A couple near the front chuckled slightly to themselves after I attempted a lighthearted joke to the crowd—a sentiment to the spirit of my mother—processing the fleetingness and light inappropriateness that funeral jokes always seem to embody. Another woman stood alone near the last row of chairs, lifting up her small ovular glasses here and there to wipe a stray tear from her face before recrossing her arms in boredom. The crowd, though all uniquely present, blended together in my mind. As I read Gemma’s eulogy, the audience blurred and collided, becoming one, as if each seat was occupied by the same background character in my life, to whom I knew no more of than their appearance and reaction to my mother’s death.
The sun was egging me on in the most comforting way it knew how: a spotlight. I knew that the only thing recognizing the twang of uncertainty and insecurity within my claims was the sun, and from my mind it took the words I truly wished to radiate, but would never bring myself to.
After shaking hands and comforting unknown supporters of the cause that was Gemma, I carried myself to the corner of the cemetery my father patiently lurked at. After I spoke, he moved himself far away from the scene, there to support his daughter quietly and say goodbye to Gemma the same way she had left him, quickly. I walked over to him with exhaustion, tiredly dragging my body through the crowd of grievers while trying my best to keep my heels from sinking into the earth, still semi-soft from the weekend’s rain. As I reached him, he smiled at me, his darkly colored mustache rising with his spectacled eyes.
My father was a mild man who loved the consistency of the sciences and all things nature almost as much as he loved me. In every aspect that Gemma lacked, my father fulfilled to the best of his ability, loving me more than I could ever deserve. Just his appearance at her funeral was enough to indicate how willing he was to be present when others were mostly absent, and even though I was certain that he was just as uncomfortable saying goodbye to Gemma as I was, he did it for me.
“Was that as utterly awful as I think it was?”
“You said what you could, darling. You lived what you couldn’t.”
He spoke to me with absolute honesty, per usual, stating facts rather than opinions. My father knew more than anyone the struggles my relationship with my mother embedded into my existence, and although he couldn’t take that pain away, he’d acknowledge it, something Gemma never could. Smiling in sympathy, he offered his arm to me, leading my weak frame away from Gemma’s last spectacle.
Together, we spent the afternoon reflecting by the water. We stayed there on the sand, reading poetry, recounting stories, holding memories. It was simple and honest. After hours of reflection and comfortable silence, I said goodnight to him, gracious for his support as well as the day’s end, and began my ascent up the steps to my one bedroom apartment.
After hanging my keys by the door, I flowed into the bedroom, dropping my slightly muddy heels to the floor, still wearing the dress that would remain in my memory as the piece of clothing I buried my mother in. Gross, I thought.
Tearing the dress quickly off and changing into the first oversized T-shirt I could get my hands on, I walked over to the window on the left side of the room, its largeness granting me a glimpse into the dwindling day below and the heavy night approaching.
I reached for the curtain, hoping to block out both the world beyond and the war inside me. As I held the stiff fabric, my eyes rested on the moon. It peered from beyond the tree in front of my room, rising slowly to take its place in the sky. I dropped the curtain from my hand, completely encapsulated by its pure light, turning slowly to see the ways the light refracted and reflected from the surfaces around me. The room, illuminated by the window’s accord, filled with the moon’s light as my organized mess transformed into shades of blues. The books–colorful and charismatic in the day–appeared dark and somber. The plants–ever-green and dynamic in sunlight–became dark silhouettes illuminated only by the soft color reflecting off the stagnation of their leaves. Even the amethyst, still resting next to the bed, unmoved and forgotten, seemed to glimmer dully in the reflecting light. The entirety of the room shifted under the moon’s power, encapsulating all aspects of the present in a tone as comforting and unknowing as the darkness around it, each reflection of light leading my eye to the origin of its gaze.
I walked back to my bed, slipping myself into the perfectly tucked sheets, and pulled the covers up over my body to the tip of my chin. I turned myself to the window, slowly watching the night sky change and the moon radiate, until my eyes grew heavier and heavier, and laborious blinks became the escape of sleep.
I dreamt of Gemma that night, my mind's eye unfolding the crystal clear image of her as my mother. A phantasmic being walking along the sand, I saw the gentle darkness of the sea we had looked over all those years ago appear before me. The waves illuminated by the rarest of moons to have graced the sands of the beach, contrasted the velvety darkness of the clear night sky lovely. I had never seen her more ethereally beautiful, draped in a silky soft dress, cascading down the worn curves of her body. She walked softly upon the damp sand, stepping closer and closer to the water's edge as barely-there footprints followed her pursuit.
I watched her walk as I sat on the same bench we had sat on the day she renamed my identity and I renamed hers. From the cliff I could see how heavily the sky weighed around her, begging her to continue her pursuit towards the pleading ocean and path of light established by the charismatic moon. She walked following the patchwork of light, balancing on top of the water until the path faded into the moon’s position and there was nothing left of Gemma but the ripples of water flowing outwards into a circular motion from where she once stood, mirroring the moon in its shape. The ripples expanded outward from the light’s end until, like my mother, it distilled into the darkness of the ocean’s presence and the moon’s force. There was nothing left but the moon, the ocean and her speckled footprints indenting the all too knowing sand.
Suddenly, the moon became the only thing there. It grew larger and larger until the portion of me sitting on that faithful bench, occupying my fantastical dream, showed straight unto the moon, creating an eclipse within the magic. It met my eye-line on the cliff, encapsulating me within its light, as an equally strong light source began flowing from my body onto its surface. The parallel lights met each other just as I converged with the moon’s complete face. For the last time in my life, I looked into Gemma’s eyes, and in the same brief second, the moon faced the sun.
Clairesse Schweig is an Editor-in-Chief of Birdie Zine.