Tonight is for those who wander in mediocrity. The air is chilled and frigid, with an unusual crispness for the South. The sun is setting, and that means the park will be closing as well. The rangers pass and warn me that I must leave before it gets dark. I nod telling them I will be leaving soon. I look up to the sky and see the curtain of stars chasing the sun away. It is going to be a beautiful night.
I sigh, and lazily make my way to the exit. Traveling through the small forest, I scare myself realizing the scenery looks exactly where a jogger might find dead bodies. The trees slumber with the winter chill and their leaves having already fallen to the ground. The growing darkness makes the shadows dance and stalk me on my journey. I hear rustling in the forest, just right alongside the path and my heart stops.
Fooled by my own thoughts, I jump and then laugh at myself, realizing the sounds were merely small animals, scurrying to find their shelter from the cold. My imagination is far too active to be traveling alone at this time. After my scare, my mind returns to what brought me to the park. Today it was announced to me that I have been with the same company for 15 years. The job itself is not terrible, nor do I dread it. I have no passion for it though and in the job I feel stagnant. The news reached me as I had also recently realized I have done nothing of any significance in my life.
No passionate love affair, no daring dreams accomplished, no great wealth. I have not lived a terrible life, nor have I lived in great poverty. In all honesty, I have lived a fairly blessed life, and for that I am grateful. Tonight though, I can’t seem to focus on the good, only the blandness of my own existence. Tonight is for those who wander in mediocrity, or maybe it is a night just for me.
Continuing along the path, I realize I am about a five minute walk from where I entered the park. Ahead of me is a woman with stunning silver hair, she is wearing a simple white dress and a black sweater. I have never seen a woman of such beauty. I wonder why I have not noticed her before, only to realize I have been so wrapped in my own head, it is a miracle I noticed anything tonight. I wish I had the courage to talk to someone as beautiful as her and yet here I am just wishing instead of doing. As I thought this, the woman turned around and my heart stopped.
I panic, could this woman have heard my thoughts? My chest begins to hurt, my lungs forget to breath, and my palms moisten as my nerves stand on edge. I consciously command myself to inhale and exhale as she walks towards me. She stops me and for a moment I forget how to speak. She smiles and says the first words, “Hello, do you think you could help me? My cat wandered here and I can’t seem to find her.”
I think to myself, on how the park is about to close, about the unlikeliness of finding a lone cat in such a large park. I begin to tell her I cannot and that I must be heading home, but then I hear the words escape my lips, “Sure, where should we start?” The voice that came out was my own but that was not what I had wanted to say. I start to shake as my nerves take hold of the situation. The woman smiles at me. My body releases all the building tension and I let out a slow exhale. Something about that smile brought me back into myself. I realized it was the right decision to help her.
“Her name is Cassiopeia, she loves to climb. Maybe we should check the forest first?”
“Cassiopeia? Like the constellation?” I stutter out.
“Yeah, just like the Greek Queen,” She giggled. “By the way my name is Luna.”
“So I see you have a theme going on here.” What was happening? I was flirting, and doing it relatively well. It was a surreal moment and my brain felt panicked over the lack of control it had over me. My body and voice each acted on their own, I could only marvel on what was happening to me, and prayed it continued. “My name is Derek.”
“Nice to meet you, Derek. Thank you so much for helping me, I am sure you have much better things to do.”
“I actually don’t.” My true thoughts escape my lips, I try to recover, “I mean this is far more important than anything I had planned.”
“You will,” She smiled and before I could ask her what she meant, she grabbed onto my hand and started running into the forest, pulling me behind her. She laughs and it’s so contagious I begin laughing with her. She then turns to me, stops laughing and puts one finger over her lips, urging me to not make a sound.
A beam of light flashes through the forest and we both drop to the ground. It is the rangers scouting to make sure no one is there after closing. I say a prayer and hope that they do not hear us. Besides finding her cat, I really want to continue to learn more about this mysterious Luna.
Footsteps and sounds of leaves rustling continue to get closer to us. My nerves begin to take over again, and I struggle to breath. Luna turns to me, grins and holds my hand again. My heart beat slows and my breath comes back to me. A moment passes and the ranger passes right past us.
The night continues and we wander looking for this mysterious cat. She tells me the cat was a gift from her father, the cat was the last thing he gave her before he died. I try to come up with words to comfort her, I place my hand on her shoulder and whisper, “We will find her, even if it takes all night.”
“Thank you, Derek.” She looked into my eyes. In the night sky the crescent moon reflected in her pupil, surrounded by the turquoise irises. I feel my face and ears warm up and my heart races, not like it normally did. I liked how this felt.
Luna began telling me about her life. She was an artist, not that she was very famous, but she has sold a few pieces. She owned a cafe in town to help her pay the bills, but her passion was her art. She told me of her travels to Europe, South America and Asia to study their art. She told me about the art and people that she saw and how all of it inspired her. She hoped to travel to Africa next year in hopes to find more inspiration. I told her I hoped she could get there. Then she asked me, “How about you? What do you hope for?”
“Oh nothing,” I mutter, embarrassed at myself and my life. “There is nothing special here.”
“Don’t say that.” She tried comforting then stood in front of me, disrupting my walking path, “Imagine I could grant one wish. If I could grant you one wish what would it be?”
I pause and think to myself for a brief instant then say, “I wish I had more confidence to go after what I wanted. To start writing again, to have drive and passion, to be able to talk to people without losing my nerve.”
“You’re talking to me just fine there.” I looked up and saw Luna smiling. How could someone be so happy? She continued, “I promise things will get easier. Just don’t give up.”
I return her smile. I don’t know what it is about this girl, but when she speaks I believe her. The hours pass and we continue to talk. I realize now that she did not say much more about herself. I was speaking, and she seemed genuinely interested in what I said. She got me to speak of my goals, what passions I have or had.
I look at my watch and realize the sun was about to rise. Luna began to look worried. “We will find her Luna. I made you a promise.” I try to comfort, when we hear a cat’s meow above us. Luna cheered and explained it was Cassiopeia. The cat was high in the tree, I offer myself to climb the tree to fetch her. I climb and climb till I reach the branch the cat clung too. I crawl cautiously on the branch to retrieve her. I whisper her name, trying my best not to frighten her and stretch out my arms.
The cat jumped into my arms and I lose my balance. We begin to tumble to the earth. I do my best to turn so I would be the one to land on the ground and not the cat that we had searched all night for. I brace myself for impact when I hear Luna’s voice gasp my name.
I fall for what seemed like an eternity. My life flashes before my eyes and I panic as I see tonight was the only night I had really felt alive. I vowed to myself if I survived this fall I would change my life so I would feel alive once again. I crashed into the earth with a thud, everything went dark and my breath escaped my lips.
I opened my eyes and saw Luna kneeled over me looking panicked. Her face fades from panicked to relief as I feel oxygen fill up my lungs once again. I begin to laugh and Luna laughs with me. The cat paced around me and I pet it just behind it’s ears. The purr that erupts from it makes us laugh even harder.
I recover and stand on my own two feet. I pat the dirt off my jeans and Luna picks the cat up. We make our way to the exit without saying much of anything. I worry this is where it all ends and I may never see her again. My thoughts are clearly painted on my face when Luna turns to me.
“Thank you so much, Derek. I don’t know what I would have done without you. I enjoyed my time with you this evening.”
“As did I.” I swallow, and attempt to summon all the courage within myself, “Could I see you again sometime?” I said it. I really said it, the words escaped me and I felt an unbelievable joy within me. Then the panic set in, while it took her a moment to answer.
“I would like that.” My heart leaped with joy. “Stop by my cafe sometime and we can have coffee.” Luna then pulled me close with her free hand and kissed my cheek. We parted ways, and as I began to walk home, I vowed to myself that I would go after what I really wanted out of life.
On Monday I did just that. I checked over my finances and realized I could live off of my savings for a while. I told my boss and we reached an agreement to remain, but only in a part time capacity. I searched through all my binders and organized my previous musings and rough drafts and begin working on them. For a week I buried myself in changing my life for the better. I forgot about that night and continued to pour myself into my new passions.
It was almost two weeks later when I decided to go to the cafe to find Luna. I arrive and order a plain black coffee. I ask the barista if I could meet the owner. The barista tells me she is on an errand, but tells me that she will be back any moment. I sit down and begin working on my project and bide my time till she returns.
A woman enters about ten minutes after I had sat down. I look up at her and swear it is Luna, my mind races as I realize this woman is not her. Truth be told they did look strikingly similar. This woman had black hair that was messily tied in a bun, and was tanner than Luna. I decide it cant be her and then I see her eyes. I could not forget those turquoise eyes. Who was this woman?
The woman talks to the barista and then gestures to me. I get nervous as she approaches. She smiles and stretches out her hand to greet me. “Hello sir is there something I can help you with?”
Her voice isn’t the same, it isn’t Luna. My heart sinks a little bit. “I’m sorry, I think I have the wrong cafe. I was supposed to meet someone here.”
“Oh I am sorry sir. If you need anything though just let me know.”
“Actually,” I feel another moment of bravery course through me, “Would you like to have a cup of coffee with me? My treat?”
She looks around the room, a bit confused, but then looks into my eyes and agrees to sit down with me. We talk and she tells me about herself. Her name is Carissa, and her story is strikingly similar to Luna’s, but I don’t mention anything. She tells me about her art and I talk about my writing. She tells me of her travels and I talk of my newly found passion for life. The hours pass and the cafe closes. Carissa invites me over to her place for a glass of wine. I agree immediately. We walk to her place and as we enter we are greeted by a very familiar feline.
“Cassiopeia!” Unable to contain my excitement.
Confused, Carissa asked me how I knew her cat. I tell a half lie and explain that I have seen her at the park by my house and always wondered who she belonged to. Carissa laughed, joking that it sounded like her cat. That night we spoke for hours until the sun began to rise. I went home that morning knowing my life is better than it ever had been.
That feeling never left me and continued to grow every day. I continued to see Carissa and we fell madly in love. In less than a year we were married and honeymooned in Africa, traveling all over examining the history, the art and the people. I wrote the whole trip and Carissa painted the people and sceneries we saw.
It is now several years later and I have quit my job, to stay at home and raise our two kids. I don’t really write anymore, instead I save my stories for our children. Carissa’s cafe is doing well, but she spends most of the time in her studio painting, well, when she is not playing with our kids. Our life is full of adventure, and I can barely remember who I was before that night in the park. I do sometimes think about Luna and that night chasing after Cassiopeia. I wonder if I imagined the whole thing or if it was all just a dream. I eventually told Carissa and she jokes to this day about Luna being my imaginary friend.
Tonight, I am camping under the stars with my children. They are begging to hear a story, our cat, the same cat, comes to join. I look up to the moon and I begin to tell them a story. A story about the night for those who wander in mediocrity. The story about how a man’s passion could be reborn.