“Hey Coltin, do you still dream if you don’t sleep? ‘Cause I don’t think so,” I say as I roll onto my stomach’s side and prop my head against my elbow. Water droplets nestled within the hairs of my arm cause my cheek to stick to my elbow when I try to adjust myself.
Where I lay with Coltin I can hear the rush of a small creek. A few stones from its bed still lay stuck in my feet from when we’d gone in, and its water still clings onto me.
Our shorts stick to our upper legs, soaking water into the barn red blanket we’ve laid out beneath ourselves. Our shirts hang amongst tree branches just past the creek, drying in the wind. It’s late autumn and late night, but the winds blow warmly against our bodies, forgetting they should be cold. Being mostly dried off, it feels perfect lying out like this.
Coltin takes a long time to respond, seeming lost in deep thought. He lays facing the sky, hiding the warm cerulean blue of his eyes from my sight. I know he’s looking over the sky’s dozens of milk drop stars, forgetting to even take in the sable black canvas which I prefer. He pulls his arm from beneath his head, reaching somewhere behind us to pluck a flower. He rubs the petals off as he brings the flower up to his face, and I don’t tell him they’ve fallen into his hair, nesting dots of white into his curls, just like the stars above us.
He uses the stem to point up to stars, drawing an imaginary line between them. “I don’t know for sure. I don’t know what you do when you don’t sleep. But, that-” he uses the flower stem to draw a circle around a set of stars. “That’s the Aquila constellation. It’s thought to symbolize an eagle, and was named by the ancient Greeks who first charted it.” I don’t bother for more of an answer to my question, knowing that Coltin won’t either. His fascination with constellations and stars is one I’ll let him indulge. Coltin stops for a moment to breathe, his chest rising in preparation for what he wants to say.
“And the eagle is the best bird, better than a turkey or quaker parrot or toucan?” I cut in, knowing what he was going to say.
“Correct.” He drops the flower stem, letting it fall somewhere between us, and plucks a new one. I don’t need to see it to know it’s a snowdrop, the only flower that can grow during this time of year. He tucks it above my ear, fixing it into place and using my hair as an anchor. The stem leaks sap along the ridge of my ear, the ends of a few hairs getting stuck in the sticky liquid.
“But let me ask you: which will taste better at Thanksgiving, turkey or eagle?”
“Turkey,” Coltin answers through a groan. “The dumb gobble-gobbling holiday bird.”
“Exactly. And so, I think there should be a turkey constellation.” I say this out to the sky, almost as though the stars and darkness might hear my idea and form something turkey-shaped right before my eyes. I can’t help but imagine it looking similar to the hand turkeys I’d make in elementary school. The idea of a constellation looking like my hand-turkey gets me to chuckle.
“But there isn’t, because tasting good doesn’t mean you’re all that deserving of a constellation.” He plucks a few more flowers and brings them up to his nose, his chest quickly rising as he takes a deep breath. The petals seem to shake in their holds, resisting the urge to fly up into his nostrils. He immediately pulls the flowers away, sitting up as he begins to cough. “Oh good Christ! These are horrible!” I can’t help but laugh, my legs kicking around and my arms flying up and behind my head. I only stop when my lungs demand I do, trying their best to pull in air. He knows I know they smell horrible and I don’t pretend not to. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He manages to ask when he finally stops coughing, now sitting upright.
“Because that was pretty damn funny. Idiot.” I let my head lay against the blanket and pretend that the little fuzzy whatevers that cover the blanket don’t cause tingles along my neck and back. I leave my arms to find rest past the small blanket and out in the jungle that seems to be the grass. “Hey, dumbo, I say that the uh, eagle constellation thing, should be a turkey constellation.” I stop and ponder the proposition for a moment. “Scratch that, I say it’s the turkey constellation now. So, lay down. I’m tryna see the turkey constellation.”
“You’re not even going to ask if I’m ok?” Coltin asks in a whiny, mocking tone, as he lays back down. I pretend not to notice he’s laid closer to me than before. Enough so that the flower stem he dropped is squishing itself between us, bending its thin body in half. I don’t say anything as I wiggle and scoot myself even closer to Coltin, disregarding the stem for the warmth that seems to radiate from his shoulder. Coltin pretends not to notice me scooting closer.
“I don’t think smelling bad flowers is that serious. Or did they really hurt you? Hm?” I turn to look at him, pouting my lips.
“It was pretty damn serious! More serious than your turkey constellation at least.”
“I’m sorry that my idea for a turkey constellation was a better one than smelling random flowers.” As I speak something bites the pinky of my right hand. From the way it stings, instantly pulsating a burn through the length of my pinky and throughout my hand, I assume it’s some dumb fire ant. I don’t blame it, knowing the small thing probably mistook me for some bigger predator bug. I wince at the surprise of the bite though, and Coltin notices instantly.
“You oki?” He asks, twisting his head to look at me with eyebrows arched just slightly in panic. He pronounces “ok” with an extra i sound at the end, matching his preferred text-spelling of “oki” and I try not to giggle at it.
“Yeah. Some dumb fire ant bit my finger.” I bring both my hands up from the grass, shaking them slightly as I pull them to my sides.
“This one,” I say as I raise up my right hand and wiggle my pinky, swinging it left to right like a metronome’s pendulum. The motion brings a slight cool to my pinky as it cuts through the air, relieving the pain just a bit. I let my hand fall back down between us, nearly filling the gap between the sides of our chests.
“Give me your hand,” he says as he wraps his left hand around my right, wiggling and adjusting his until it can just perfectly fit between the two of us. His grip is cool yet tight around mine, and he squeezes my hand a few times between his. I don’t need moonlight to know he’s turned his head to hide his blush. I find it more than cute, but don’t say anything. We lay like this for a long time, watching the stars, letting the silence blanket us. The pain in my finger almost entirely subsides, and we take turns squeezing each other’s hands every so often. “What do you say the turkey constellation should be called?” He asks finally.