Not strictly autobiographical, but still a manifestation of many of the feelings that've been swirling round my mind, as of late.

"Still alive, I see," he observed, affectionately nudging her side with his elbow.

"Hmm?" she replied, removing her earphones and trying to act surprised, as though she had not noticed the moment he had turned round the corner. As though she had not been praying that he would deem her worthy of talking to. As though she had not taken the long way around to the library, thereby walking near his residence hall and increasing her odds of seeing him.

He readjusted his backpack, smiling, stepping into sync with her, even though she was walking in the direction he had just come from. "I said, 'Still alive, I see.' As in, I'm glad the chemistry lab today didn't kill you." Pausing, he quirked one eyebrow in that adorable fashion she had fallen in love with. "You are alive, aren't you?"

Ask the cuts on my arms, she wanted to say, but instead, she forced a simple "Of course I'm alive!" to suffice.

Hesitating, he placed a tentative hand on her shoulder, as though sensing her lie and desiring to acknowledge his note of it. "And what a night to be alive," he mused. "It reminds me of Van Gogh's 'Starry Night.'"

Laughing, she tried to walk in such a way that he could keep his hand on her shoulder, without making her intentions obvious. "Art majors," she chided good-naturedly.

"Seriously, though. Do you know what I'm talking about? It's my favorite painting" - and here, he lapsed into that art-speak she had learned to love him for. During these times, when he rambled incessantly about the art that made his life, she would zone out and simply watch the way his hazel-painted eyes sparkled with life, or the way his perfectly sculpted lips formed their words, or the way his words flowed gracefully like watercolors.

This time, though, she interrupted. "You must feel so alive, when you're talking about art," she whispered, envious.

"Art is my life," he confessed. "How can you not feel alive, when you're talking about the thing you breathe?"

There they were, enveloped by the midnight sky, standing beneath a billion brilliant stars and gallant galaxies, yet it was not the song of the night universe that made her heart beat with a stunning rapidity. Desperately pleading with God that her pounding pulse was not visible in her neck, she responded, "I don't always feel so alive."

"When do you feel alive?"

"I don't know. But you can tell how alive I feel by the eyeliner on my eyes. The days I feel deadest are the days I wear the most eyeliner. The days I feel confident are the days I do with less." But really, what she wanted to say was, I am never fully alive. But when I'm with you, I feel closer to life than I have ever felt before.

"How much eyeliner are you wearing right now?" he asked, and when she did not answer, he grabbed her arm.

She tried not to wince at the pressure he placed on her cuts.

With gentle firmness, he led her to the lamppost and stopped there, just standing. He placed his finger beneath her chin and tilted her face up.

"What are you doing?" she exclaimed, grimacing and turning away.

"Stop, stop," he chided tenderly, brushing her hair from her face and peering into her eyes. But instead of commenting on the exorbitant amount of eyeliner she had applied that day, he gave her a sweet smile and placed his hands on her shoulders. "You look lovely."

"The light shows all my blemishes," she whimpered.

She could hear kindness in his tone. "It brings out the color of your eyes, more than eyeliner ever could."

Well, he was an art major. Of course he would say that. But how was she to respond? Could she dare to mention that in her eyes, he was more beautiful than anything she had ever known? That everytime he opened his mouth to speak, it was as though their very souls collided? That everything he said and did and the way he moved spoke more life to her than the microphones of one thousand shooting stars?

The "beauty" of this measly little universe has nothing on you.

No, she could not say any of those things, because it was not within her rights to make known her feelings. His girlfriend was the only one who possessed that right.

His girlfriend, who wore her eyeliner in the exact same way she did. She wondered if his girlfriend felt alive. But how could anyone not feel alive, if they were loved so perfectly by a man so beautiful as he was?

"What are you thinking about?" he asked, breaking into her reverie.

"The stars. They look quite lovely tonight."

The End

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