The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta.
I lazed in bed and tried to imagine I was home. Instead I was trapped in a hotel room in Las Vegas. My eyes had opened at 3 a.m., but I forced myself to stay under the covers. It would be a long day if I woke that early every day I was gone. East Coast Girl. West Coast World. That’s how business travel goes.
At 4 o’clock in the morning, my phone chimed. I was glad for the company even though it was all the way back in Atlanta.
The text message contained four words.
Go outside. Look up.
I remembered immediately. It was the morning of the Super Blue Blood Moon. I slid out of bed and found my shoes. I brushed my teeth in a hurry. I’d gone from lazing to full speed in a matter of moments. I didn’t want to miss it, so I hurried through the hotel and down into the casino. People were everywhere. It could’ve been 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I didn’t seem out of place as I wandered toward the exit.
There was no way I would be able to see the moon. The strip in Vegas is bright. Times Square bright. You can look up if you want to see neon and Godzilla-sized billboards. Donnie and Marie are twenty stories tall and looming outside my hotel room window. I bet they are just going to sleep.
You don’t look up in Vegas if you want to see the stars. You don’t look up in Vegas if you hope to see the moon.
But I did.
I have a great sense of direction. I can almost always find East. Even in the darkness of night. Even in the frightening light of the city. Still I hesitated. In the bright lights, the whole world was spinning.
I stepped outside. I looked up.
There was the moon, like a trick of the eye. Large, pulling, red. I’d seen the moon so many times before. Yellow. Orange. White. But not like this.
I was witnessing a celestial event that last occurred in 1866. This was a rare Super Blue Blood Moon. A Blue Moon is the second full moon of the month. A Super Moon is when the moon’s orbit is particularly close to the Earth. The Blood Moon is the red color that happens during a total lunar eclipse.
By chance, I happened to be in the perfect viewing zone. West Coast. My reminder was from home in Atlanta. Another text came through.
We saw the moon as we drove to school.
It was in the early pre-dawn hours, and the sky was clear. I could see the moon, and I could see the stars.
I stood there for a long time before the shadow started to appear. A few passersby spoke to me. I guess I didn’t blend in. I wore yoga pants and my college t-shirt. I lacked a sequined top and stiletto heels. My face was scrubbed clean. No makeup. No jewelry. I was looking at the sky.
Eventually the moon disappeared. To know the moon is gone, you’d first have to know it was there. There was beauty in the sudden loneliness. I felt lost for a moment. I was too far from home and then suddenly on another planet. My breath won’t remain steady. What if the moon didn’t come back?
I would stand there forever waiting.
Only I didn’t have to wait forever. The shadow that became full darkness became a glow red again. I felt a burst of happiness as the first glimpse of the moon reappeared on the other side. The happiness and the loneliness swirled around me. I looked at the moon for a long time.
Love is sometimes being alone, but also being remembered from far away. That was my Valentine’s Day. January 31. I remember now not to discount the bright or busy places. There is always time to send a brief message. Into space and back again. I can always make time to go outside and look up.
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the back roads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. The Zero Mile column appears on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.