Michael J. Leach – Astronomical Connection

Michael J. Leach is an Australian writer and academic. Michael’s poems reside in The Galway Review, Cordite, Meniscus, Rabbit, Plumwood Mountain, the 2021 Hippocrates Prize Anthology, and elsewhere. His books include Chronicity (Melbourne Poets Union, 2020) and Natural Philosophies (Recent Work Press, forthcoming). Two of Michael’s plays have been performed by Bendigo Theatre Company. He lives on unceded Dja Dja Wurrung Country and acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land.


Astronomical Connection

Two people are seated on opposite sides of the stage in two different settings. The person on the left—a thirty-year-old woman named Celeste—is sitting on a beanbag in her loungeroom. The person on the right—a thirty-year-old man named Adam—is sitting on a double bed in his bedroom. They are both looking down at their smartphones and rapidly typing away. It is a Saturday night. Suddenly, Celeste sends Adam a message via WhatsApp and a conversation ensues.

CELESTE
Hi.

Pause

ADAM
Hi.

CELESTE
It’s been awhile. Wanna chat?

ADAM
About what?

CELESTE
Anything except the rona.

ADAM
How about Baby Yoda?

CELESTE
Anything except the rona and Baby Yoda.

ADAM
If I remember correctly, our…association never had much to do with conversation.

CELESTE
Then we should have plenty to talk about.

ADAM
Right. Like the weather or whether we have any siblings?

CELESTE
Yeah, exactly! So, how’s the weather been where you are?

ADAM
I wouldn’t know. I’m stuck here alone in my unit in Orange. I’ve been self-isolating while waiting for a COVID test result.

CELESTE
Well, I’m under lockdown in my unit in Bendigo. The temperature is pretty consistent here cos I have central heating.

Pause

CELESTE
So, have you got any brothers or sisters?

ADAM
No. Have you?

CELESTE
No.

ADAM
Adam stands up while still typing. Look, as riveting as this has been, there are all these boxes of stuff I’ve been meaning to sort through. So, don’t be offended if I don’t respond again. Adam moves across his bedroom, opens a box and starts sorting through its contents.

CELESTE
Wow. I bet you wouldn’t ignore me if I were there in front of you, sitting cross-legged on your bed again. There are more dimensions to life than just the physical, you know, Adam. Oh, whatever. I suppose I should stop being surprised when I encounter men who reinforce male stereotypes.

ADAM
Adam stops sorting through the box and sits back down on his bed. Are you trying to say you want to talk about psychology? Do you want to psychoanalyse me?

CELESTE
No, I just want to have a meaningful conversation with someone—someone other than Siri.

ADAM
Sorry, Celeste. I’m just not really the D&M type.

CELESTE
I think we’ve established that. Sorry, Adam. I don’t know why I chose to bother you out of the thousands of people in my WhatsApp contact list. Maybe it’s cos your name starts with an ‘A’?

ADAM
Thousands of WhatsApp contacts? I only have about a hundred. How many of those thousands of people do you know well?

CELESTE
Like I said, I just want to have a meaningful conversation with someone. I want a good, stable connection, and I’m not talking about Internet speed, although I suppose that’d help. I’m looking for…

Pause

ADAM
Looking for what?

CELESTE
…lasting love. Sorry, maybe I’m the one reinforcing stereotypes.

ADAM
It’s okay.

CELESTE
Don’t you ever feel that way too? Amidst all the chaos and pain of life, there’s got to be more than superficial relationships and constant consumerism to sustain us. Last year, I liked what happened between us. Your pickup lines were on point. Then the witty remarks, the banter and the bedroom kept me interested till work took you interstate. But…please don’t take this the wrong way…but is that all you’ve got?

ADAM
Ouch.

Pause

ADAM
Okay, how about I tell you something about myself that no one else knows?

CELESTE
I’m listening.

ADAM
I was shy and kind of nerdy at school. I wore glasses and got bullied. I was also a member of the school chess club and the local astronomical society. Then I changed outwardly in my twenties when I got contacts and started hitting the clubs. But even now, at 30, I’m still the same kid inside. I may work in mining, but my true passion is astronomy. I suppose it’s ironic that, to earn a good wicket, I’ve gone to work underground where I can’t even see the sky.

CELESTE
I don’t know what to say, Adam. Celeste pauses. Actually, I do: I think I always knew, deep down, that there must be another side to you.

ADAM
It feels kind of good to be myself. None of my current friends know I’m an astronomy lover. I’d probably be mercilessly mocked if I told them.

CELESTE
I’m not mocking.

ADAM
I noticed.

CELESTE
This revelation does explain your Baby Yoda reference though. Celeste laughs out loud.

ADAM
Adam laughs out loud. True, true. I love Star Wars. The Mandalorian is better than expected.

CELESTE
I find it interesting that you’re into astronomy. I’ve always been kind of interested in science too, especially biology. I wish I’d studied science or health at uni instead of going into retail and losing my job during COVID. I guess I was worried my friends would think I’m a nerd. But I’ve always been amazed by everything that needs to happen below the surface to keep people alive and to enable us to perform even the simplest of movements. I mean, anatomically, there’s so, so much going on when we just tilt our heads back to look up at the stars.

ADAM
So sorry about your job, Celeste. Adam sighs. It’s cool you’re into science too. You know, the stars are out tonight. If we both go outside now and look up, it’d almost be like we’re stargazing together.

CELESTE
That sounds like a generic pickup line you’d use on any woman.

ADAM
Well, it’s not.

CELESTE
Okay, I’ll head out to my backyard.

ADAM
I’m on my way out to mine.

Still holding their smartphones, Celeste and Adam get up and move towards one another. They face each other in the middle of the stage—physically close as actors yet far apart as characters. The stage lights dim.

CELESTE
The stars are so bright and beautiful.

ADAM
Just like you.

CELESTE
Celeste laughs out loud. Oh no. Were you lying about being into astronomy? I thought you were going to say something more…intellectual.

ADAM
If you like, I could tell you why the stars are so bright?

CELESTE
Sure.

ADAM
It’s because we both live in regional areas. If we both still lived in Melbourne like when we first met, then the stars would be barely visible. The overwhelming level of artificial lighting throughout big cities leads to light pollution, which drowns out starlight. This makes it difficult to stargaze in the city. We’re lucky to be out in the country where we can clearly see all these beautiful constellations. Adam waves an outstretched palm up and across in an arc.

CELESTE
I never even noticed. I suppose that, when you’re in Melbourne, you get so dazzled by the city lights that you forget about the stars.

ADAM
I never forgot.

CELESTE
Aw, that’s so sweet. You really are a nerd!

ADAM
Hey!

CELESTE
Sorry, I was just kidding!

Pause

CELESTE
So, why don’t you tell me more about astronomy? What’s your favourite constellation and why?

ADAM
Alright. First, I’ll show it to you. Adam instinctively points up at the night sky with his index finger. Can you see the brightest star in the sky?

CELESTE
Celeste looks up, down and side to side. After some time, she speaks again. Yeah, I see it!

ADAM
Well, that’s not really a star at all. It’s the planet Jupiter.

CELESTE
Oh, cool! But I asked you to tell me your favourite constellation.

ADAM
I am. Now look above Jupiter. Adam’s index finger moves up slightly. You should see a cluster of five stars that, together, look a bit like a trapezium or the body of an animal. Above those stars, there should be three more that rise up like an animal’s head.

CELESTE
Celeste squints and says nothing for some time. Oh yeah, yeah! Now I see.

ADAM
Excellent! You’ve just located a constellation like an astronomer would. That’s my favourite constellation of all: Leo. I love its distinctive shape and historical connection with my favourite animal—the lion.

CELESTE
Now I’m really speechless.

ADAM
Why? Have I fascinated you into silence?

CELESTE
No…You’ll probably think this is silly, but my star sign is Leo.

ADAM
Really?

CELESTE
Yeah, I’m a Leo. Did you know?

ADAM
I had no idea, Celeste. Adam pauses. I don’t believe in astrology, but I do believe in synchronicity…in the occurrence of meaningful coincidences.

CELESTE
Well, tell me, Adam, what does this mean to you?

ADAM
I’m not sure yet. I just know it’s a good sign.


THE END

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