I stayed up until almost one this morning, reading comic books.
I know, it's like I'm 12 all over again.
And it's awesome.
Around four, Anne woke me up.
"What's wrong?" I said, while I was still waiting to clear immigration between Dreamland and Reality.
"Nothing. I just couldn't sleep, so I got up and went outside to watch the meteor shower. It's really cool, and I knew you'd want to see it."
I sat up, pushed the covers to one side, and ignored the grumbling protests of our dog, who had just lost his primary source of warmth and cuddling.
"It's cold out, though, so put something warm on."
I grabbed a hoodie and put on my totally-not-lame-but-always-make-me-feel-self-conscious-to-wear-them slippers. I walked through the dark house, past the quiet and strangely comforting hum of my aquarium's filter, and out onto our patio.
I know it's cliché, but the stars were brilliant jewels against a field of black velvet. Betelgeuse was a brilliant red. The Orion Nebula was bright and fuzzy. Sirius, in Canis Major, was such a bright blueish-white I couldn't look directly at it. To the North, Ursa Major dominated the sky, and I could even see Mizar without any effort. Back on Earth, a distant train's whistle sounded from far away, probably from the train yard near Commerce.
"You just missed a fireball," Anne said, quietly. She pointed to the Eastern sky and added, "and there have been tons of little flashes from over there, too."
I wrapped my arms around myself to stay warm and let my eyes roam across the sky. I didn't see any fireballs, but I saw lots of meteors fly across the sky, greenish and yellowish trails flashing then fading behind them.
Maybe it's because I wasn't entirely awake, or maybe it's because I'd been reading about mutants and other worlds before I went to sleep, but as I looked up into the sky, toward Castor and Pollux, I really felt, for the first time in my entire 38 years on this planet, the overwhelming vastness of the universe.
Where I have always felt awe, I felt small. Where I have always felt inspiration, I felt vulnerable. "I'm on a planet, spinning on its axis, racing around a star, moving faster than my mind can comprehend, through that," I thought. "And right now, that planet is flying through an ancient asteroid debris, bits of dust and rock smacking into its atmosphere like bugs against a windshield." I felt a little freaked out.
I've quoted Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot so many times, I don't need to look it up anymore to get it right, but last night, looking up into the enormity of the universe, it was suddenly more than poetry and a reminder to take better care of each other.
I moved closer to Anne and put my arms around her. She leaned her head back against my chest and we looked up into the sky together, watching faint meteors streak across the sky every few seconds.
"I'm glad you woke me up," I whispered. "Thank you."
"I'm sorry you didn't get to see the fireballs," she said.
"Nah, it's okay. I didn't need to."
The train's whistle sounded again. This time, it didn't seem so far away.
We stood there and watched the sky for several minutes, until our hands and feet were numb with the cold, and went back inside.
When I got back into bed, I pulled the covers up over my head, and tucked them around myself as tightly as I could. It took a long while for sleep to reclaim me.