In the bathroom on the eighth floor of my university’s library, at around 3 in the afternoon, the sun shines through at an oddly direct angle onto the cracked, moldy floor tiles. It travels through a sad, industrialized window that’s covered with an unfriendly sheet of tinted plastic. This sheet allows someone to stare at The Sun without the risk of blindness. It changes the color of The Sun without changing its shape. There’s no blurring of its round edges — it’s still the perfect circle of hot gas millions of miles away that forces us to somehow get out of bed in the morning, regardless of how the moon treated us the night before. Strange how something so far away and unknowable maintains such dictatorship.
Today I went into this particular bathroom just so I could stare at The Sun. When I was five, a boy I loved told me I would never be able to do that without my eyes exploding. Later, when I was thirteen and tremendously miserable, another boy told me the yellow bursts of my inner irises reminded him of sunflowers. It was the first time anyone had ever looked me in the eyes long enough to see them. I liked to think that these sunflowers were an unspoken reward for never threatening The Sun by questioning it. Maybe we weren’t supposed to look at The Sun out of respect; maybe we wouldn’t actually go blind. Maybe it was just a rule to keep us in line. To keep us in fear of things that we only know as unknowable. Maybe The Sun was The Führer of planets. It was an obscure but uncomplicated resolution for me. I never told anyone.
Today, I was thirteen. Miserable. And today, I challenged the sun. I offended it. Flipped it off, even. On the eighth floor, I walked past the row of books on Rilke’s poetry that no one’s touched in far too long and the desks engraved with phallic carvings of tortured young souls who’ve long since graduated. I entered the bathroom as if I were going to war. Pushed the door open, set my bag down. Blinked.
And then I stared at the sun. And I didn’t go blind. No, we just looked at each other for a few moments, strangers.