I sidled up to him and asked him where he found the beer. It was one of those parties where food and drink were scattered indiscriminately around the place, as though we weren't guests, but a bunch of feral cats being offered sanctuary. I never turn down an offer of sanctuary.
"I don't know, there's a cooler out back, I think. Someone just handed it to me. Want me to find you one?"
"Yeah. Um, no. I don't like beer. I was just hoping that they might have something....else."
He looked at me hard for a second.
"What kind of something else?"
"Just not beer. Anything. Just not that."
He smiled and raised one eyebrow. He hadn't shaved in a while and the smile was one that said that he was too busy with really important things to worry about shaving. Or bathing, for that matter. "Anything?"
My mouth smiled without me. "Sure."
He took my hand. "Come on. This party'll be here when we get back."
I felt a momentary surge of guilt that I was leaving without saying goodbye to the friends I had come with, but they had abandoned me at the door. I'm sure they'd just think I'd gotten lucky. "Where are we going?" I said as we walked out into the night.
"To the Temple of Stars."
"Is that a bar?"
"No, it's the Temple of Stars." His voice was very quiet and serious, like I was being let in on a secret. He led me into the alley and out into the next street. We went into the next alley, and down into the basement of a building. He squeezed my hand every once in a while, looking back at me with a not-quite-smile. "Here we are."
He opened the door into something the size of a utility closet, but the inside was pitch black. Pitch black, except for the stars. From inside the darkness, I could see into the cosmos. Every constellation, every pulsar, quasar, white dwarf, nebula. They were all there.
"They want to talk to you," he said, and pressed a pill into my hand. I didn't even look at it before putting it in my mouth. It was chalky, and he gave me a cup of something sweet to wash it down with. I closed my eyes and I could hear them calling me.
I looked into the darkness for him, but I couldn't see him. For all I knew, he might be lightyears away, on some other planet, bringing someone else to the Temple of Stars. I breathed deeply, surprised at how easy it was, how warm space felt, how I could still feel every pulse of my own body while still participating in the cycles of the galaxies around me. I felt my heart start to flutter, and everything went dark.
I woke up, stiff and sore. I opened one eye at a time and realized that I was in the alley behind the building where the party had been. The world looked skewed and stretched through the two empty beer bottles in front of my face. I rolled over and saw a little girl sitting on the step, looking at me. At least I had my clothes on.
"You should probably go home now," the little girl said. "Planet boy got your wallet."
Feh. It was worth it.