Once upon a time there was Bailey, a very small woman who lived in a rather small apartment in a fairly small city. She wasn’t exactly a misanthrope – she loved people as persons in the singular, though as a rule not in the plural – but when offered a choice between out or in she tended to stay home, turn the ringer off, shop online and ask the mailman to leave things at the door. (She didn’t really get out much, is what I’m saying. No, I’m not talking about myself, here. I can see why you might think that, though.) This woman had long, beautiful red hair that she kept tied back in a braid. And no one seemed to love that hair more than the man she had recently started dating. He was clever enough, and kind enough, and attractive enough, and generous, and only very distantly related to her. They had met online and seen each other only a few times when he got a job in another city. He assured her that he’d fly back as often as he could, but after two months there was still no visit, and the Skype calls had stopped coming, and the emails were increasingly rare. Around this time, she started spending more and more time sleeping: she traveled widely in her dreamlife and made excuses to return there as often as she could. In those dreams she began living out a parallel romantic timeline. There, she met her beau each night and they sat together as he unbraided and brushed out her long hair and held her while she played him banjo songs she learned on YouTube. In time, though, he took leave of her dreams as well. And so one afternoon the woman lay on her bed and closed her eyes and built a dreamtemple to a dreamgoddess– it was a bird goddess, and the temple shaped like a cage – and she opened the door and flitted inside and hopped onto the perch and asked the goddess to bring the man back to her. She promised, in return, that the goddess could have her long, beautiful hair. (It would make great nesting material, she reasoned.) And then dreamthings took a turn – as they do – and she wandered along different storylines until her dreaming had exhausted itself. At night she woke, remembering neither the temple nor the promise made within it, and her hair was gone. Panicked, the woman threw on her robe and – a rare thing – she went outside to try to find it. She found instead a front stoop covered in cardinals, each bright read with a strawberry-blond braid in place of a tail. Spooked by the door, they took flight together and as she followed them through the night sky she glimpsed the moon, which now blazed with the face of her beloved. Her skin was so fair that as she stared, her cheeks were singed red with moonburn.
And that’s why we call that red – which you can only see on a night when the moon is full and the birds are friendly – “Bailey’s Moonburn.”