Excerpt

MANAY, PHILLIPINES

MARCH 18, 1988

To the Girl With the Golden Hair,

      I wasn’t sure I wanted to come here. It’s a long way just to see the sun disappear. My parents showed me pictures and it looks pretty rad, but I don’t know.
      But I’m glad I came. I hope you don’t see me watching you, that would just make me more nervous. The moon’s starting to block the sun. Cool. I wanted to write this letter to you, maybe I’ll give it to you.
      Probably not. Mom says I’m too shy.
      I really hope I see you again. Mom said we’re not going to the next one. I think that’s good. It would be even longer to get there. She said it’s somewhere in the USSR, but there’s not much around.
      I really hope you’ll be at the one after that. I want to see you again. You look so happy, and it makes me feel happy for once. And you look like you’re about my age.
      I’m nine now.
      Well, I’ll be thinking about you. The sun’s almost gone. Dad says it will be gone for three minutes and twenty-three seconds.
      Okay. This is cool.

_______________________________

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO

JULY 11, 1991

To the Girl With the Golden Hair,

      I’m so glad you’re here. How have you been? I’ve thought about you a lot. And about the eclipse. It was amazing. I felt so happy, so normal in the darkness. There was nobody watching me, nobody making fun of me, nobody trying to hurt me.
      Have you ever read Robinson Crusoe? It’s my favourite book, I’m on my fourth time reading it. Just the idea of being stranded alone on a deserted island, it kind of seems like a good thing. Kind of seems like it would feel the way the eclipse did.
      I’ve been waiting since then to feel that way again. It’s like, when the sun disappears behind the moon, everything’s the way it should be. Is that weird?
      I hope you’ve been good. Things weren’t great for me, but I think they’re getting better. I want to talk to you, maybe you could help me with some stuff. Maybe it wouldn’t seem so bad. But I’m still so nervous. I can barely talk to anyone without freaking – and you’re beautiful.
      That’s not the only reason I like you though. If you smiled during the eclipse, I bet it would be bright again. You just seem nice, not like everyone at school.
      Well, this will be a good one. Six minutes and almost thirty-eight seconds. I can’t wait to feel alive again. Maybe it will make me strong enough to talk to you, or at least to give you this letter.
      But probably not.
      Next time?

_______________________________

MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY

JUNE 30, 1992

To the Girl With the Golden Hair,

      It’s been less than a year this time, and I can still feel the energy from the last one. It’s like the darkness fills me with hope – backwards, right? – and it stays in me. For a while at least, until everyone picks away at it ‘til it’s gone.
      Things haven’t been getting any better. You can see I’ve got zits… everywhere. I mean, lots of people our age have them, but I got it bad. Why is life like that? Like I needed to have it harder. But the perfect jocks, they don’t get a spot. At least you have a couple too. I’m not being mean, it just… makes you more real.
      Plus I got braces and glasses this year. I spent a lot of time stuffed in my locker after that. Why am I writing this? You’d probably think I’m a loser if you read it. But maybe not. I guess it’s the maybe not that keeps me writing you these letters. That one day I’ll talk to you or give them to you and you’ll understand. I just wish it could be today but my hands are sweating writing this.
      Another two minutes and four seconds of life for me coming up. It’s funny, it’s only the totality that matters. Only the time when the sun is completely gone, the rest of the time it could be the middle of the day to me. But when the sun is gone, just a ring of fire dancing around the edges of the moon, that’s when I feel the fire in me too.
      Like the corona of the sun that we don’t normally get to see is reaching out to me.

_______________________________

BALNEÁRIO ARROIO DO SILVA, BRAZIL

NOVEMBER 11, 1993

To the Girl With the Golden Hair,

      I can’t believe I still don’t even know your name. There aren’t that many of us umbraphiles here, and even less that come every time. But still, I can’t bring myself to talk to you.
      That cast on your arm must suck. I wonder how you broke it. You’re so tall and slender, nothing like me. Gymnastics, maybe? You look like a gymnast. I wish I could do that stuff, especially the rings. I love watching it on the Olympics, but my dad says I don’t have an athletic bone in my body. And he hates me for it, I can tell. Plus, he doesn’t think gymnastics is a man’s sport.
      They wanted more than one kid, but I was all they got. The doctors said they were lucky I was even born, my mom wasn’t supposed to have been able to have babies.
      My dad was a football star in school, and he watches sports all the time. He tried to get me to play as a kid, but I was never any good and I didn’t like it. I get picked last in school, and most of the time I’m on the bench. I think the only good thing I got was that I’m smart. But that just gets me picked on more.
      It’s been worse lately, but when I get really depressed I think of the next eclipse and that feeling I get. And, of course, seeing you again. You don’t know it but you’ve helped me through a lot of rough times.
      We’re almost there. I try to write until the end, but it gets so dark it’s hard to see what I’m doing. I want these letters to look nice for when I give them to you. Almost four minutes this time, three forty-nine. I wish I could stand next to you during it. Maybe the feeling I get would pass on to you.
      I’m being weird again, sorry. But me and eclipses, well, we have a past.

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