It was snowing the first time we met there. Not a wild flurry of white, but a lazy drift of flakes that gave a gentle kiss of cold when caught. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that it was snowing, the heart-shaped crater of Pluto was always filled with snow, but not snow like you know. Snow on Pluto is special. Scientists say its nitrogen and methane but it’s not. They only think that because they’ve never been. Snow on Pluto is its own thing. Cold in the sky and warm as a bed of feathers on the ground.
That’s where we sat, my best friend and I. Lounging against a pillow of Pluto snow with moons, planets and stars shining above us in the glorious silence and a gentle flurry of snow, just like the first time.
“Look,” he said, arm raised to point at the left side of Charon. I followed his gaze and watched the plumes of ice spilling down the sides of the moon volcano like an unfurling flower. The heart of Pluto was the best place to watch ice volcanoes on the moon erupting, we did it often and tonight, Charon looked so close that we might almost be able to touch it.
“You know, Charon isn’t my favourite moon,” I said. He looked at me the way he always did when I announced these random facts, with mild interest. I did it often. He started conversations with thoughtful questions and a will to learn the world better, all the worlds. I blurted out whatever nonsense burst into my head at that moment. As the older of us, surely I was supposed to be sensible and worldly, but I wasn’t. He was waiting, eyebrow raised, asking me to finish my thought without words. “I mean all of our moons are special,” I let my eyes pick out Pluto’s satellites one at a time. Tiny little Styx, the baby moon. Kerberos, the moody moon who likes to hide in the dark and Hydra with her strange and bumpy surface, “but I like Nix best.”
“I knew it!” he declared and I couldn’t help but laugh. He dramatically flopped back into the snow bank and sent a cloud of Pluto snow billowing into my face. “How can you love Nix over beautiful and majestic Charon? Nix, the space potato!”.
I sputtered as I was covered in tiny chills until the flakes warmed and fell away. I took my revenge by dumping a flurry on his bare arms, much to his dismay. “Quit calling my beautiful moon a space potato!”
“Are you saying she isn’t a space potato?” He waved his arms at Charon, the eerie glow of starlight shining across the icy crust of her surface as though she was lit from within, like a diamond made with a core of fire. Volcanoes of ice erupting on her surface and swirls of crystalline air that could be seen with the naked eye. She was breath-taking. There was no denying it.
Then he pointed to Nix. Eyebrow raised again. I swore he used it just for me when I was being dense. Nix with her dusty red looking colour and distinctly potato-like shape that made her wobble and jitter through space, unable to find an axis on which to spin. Like me, she was dancing to an entirely different tune to the rest of the universe. A little weird and out of place but comfortable in her strangeness. Yep, that was definitely my moon. “Fine, I admit, she is entirely a space potato, but she is my space potato. She’s a dancing moon. You can have the big flashy diamond of a moon and I’ll keep my weird little space potato.”
“You think I like Charon because she’s pretty?” He looked a little offended, hurt even.
“She is very beautiful. You can’t deny that.”
“She is, but that’s not what makes her special.” He looked at our beautiful moon and smiled. “Do you know that she is the only moon in our universe that doesn’t spin? She stays facing Pluto all the time.” He slipped his arm through mine and gestured with his other hand to the glittering sky. “Like in the whole of the universe these two beautiful bodies have found each other in the darkness of space and suddenly can never bear to be parted again. So they spin through space together, like dancers. Never able to turn their faces away from one another. I think Charon is the best moon because she fell in love with our Pluto and our Pluto fell in love with her. I think that’s why Pluto has this heart that always faces Charon. Because Charon has her heart.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised. In all the time we’d known each other my friend had shown time and again that he never took the obvious beauty. He sat quietly and then without warning showed you the softer beauty that was the very soul of a thing. It’s why Pluto suited him so well. Here he was safe from a messy and loud world that often took too much and gave back too little. She was a haven made just for two. A world where the sun, normally blinding on earth, was a distant glimmer in a sea of other distant glimmers and the infinite possibilities of all the other stars had a chance to shine.
But it’s temporary. One day we would be able to live on Pluto, but for now, we visited in brief moments when the quiet was needed by us both. In a few minutes, we would both close our eyes and when we opened them again we’d be back in a busy office or on a crowded street and only seconds will have passed. The world will once again be loud and full of people who are all too close and too coarse.
But Pluto and Charon would be out there, waiting. Dancing through the stars with their quirky little friends, one of whom jigged quietly in a most peculiar way and basked in the warmth of the love from a small snowy planet and her diamond moon.