They met at a Star Wars convention in Youngstown, Ohio. He’d come as Bib Fortuna, the Twi’lek majordomo of the space gangster Jabba the Hutt. She was Maz Kanata, the proprietor of an interstellar tavern on the planet Takodana. When they saw one another across the carpeted ballroom of a busy Ramada Inn, they were drawn together as though he was the Millennium Falcon and she was the tractor beam of the original Death Star.
He sat beside her at a panel discussion featuring voice actors from the animated Clone Wars series. She touched his Twi’lek lekku and told him that what she found most attractive about his costume was that he’d not chosen a predictable character—not Darth Maul or Boba Fett or any member of the Jedi Order—but someone obscure enough that only the most dedicated Star Wars fans would know him.
“We have that in common,” she told him. “Our dedication.”
He could scarcely see her eyes behind her thick, tinted goggles.
”I’ve watched The Empire Strikes Back three hundred and seventy-one times,” he told her.
“The theatrical release or the 1997 special edition?”
“The theatrical release three hundred and sixty-five times. The special edition six.”
They spent the day together. They learned that he lived in Warren, Ohio, and she lived in Niles.
“That’s under twelve parsecs away,” he told her.
Then they laughed as though they’d never heard anything funnier.
They met again a week later. She was Boushh, Leia’s bounty hunter alter-ego. He was the smuggler Nien Nunb. Their server at the Applebee’s looked at them as though they were visitors from another planet.
“But we are from another planet,” she said. “I’m from Alderaan, and you’re from Sullustan.”
“And this is like the Mos Eisley Cantina but without the music.”
“Or Ponda Baba.”
Midway through a conversation about whether Han shot first—they both agreed that he had—she told him that it was good that they met in costume.
“Because it’s not about looks,” she said. “Because we love each other for who we really are.”
Later that evening, they played Battlefront II on the PlayStation in his apartment. She took off her helmet. They kissed. She put the helmet back on.
“We should stay,” she said, “in costume.”
They slept in makeup and masks. Not in clothes.
“A marathon?” she asked him.
She wore the white garments of Taun We, aide to the prime minister of Kamino. He made popcorn in the kitchen, and she watched from the doorway.
“In what order?” she asked him. “By Star Wars universe chronology or by date of original theatrical release?”
Popcorn pinged in the microwave.
“You decide,” he told her.
She held the replica lightsaber that he’d purchased at a Galaxy’s Edge attraction at Disneyland. Examining it for authenticity, she told him, “Let’s watch the prequel trilogy tonight and the original trilogy next weekend. So we’ll have something to look forward to.”
He wore his best Jedi robes. She watched the films in his arms.
“How many times have you seen Attack of the Clones?” she asked him.
“One hundred forty-two times. And you?”
“Two hundred nineteen. Don’t judge me. It’s a beautiful love story.”
The one hundred and forty-third time he watched Attack of the Clones was by far the most memorable. It was the first time he watched it with her.
It was a work function, she told him. A formal event. She led him to her closet and asked him, “What should I wear?”
He said, “You have more costumes than Padme Amidala, Queen of the Naboo.”
She showed him her Padme Amidala costumes. He chose the black dress worn by Padme’s decoy in The Phantom Menace.
“Perfect,” she told him.
It was an ornate dress. It took her hours to get ready. He’d rented a tuxedo and changed clothes in her living room, and as he waited for her to finish, he watched some episodes of Star Wars Resistance.
She was upset when she saw him.
“Where is your costume?” she asked.
“You aren’t dressed like a Star Wars character.”
“You said it was a formal event.”
“You could have come as Senator Bail Organa. You could have dressed like Luke Skywalker in the medal ceremony at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope.”
“Or Palpatine when he was Supreme Chancellor.”
“Or Palpatine when he was Supreme Chancellor. Exactly.”
He straightened his black rented bowtie.
“I don’t have any of those costumes,” he said. “I don’t have that many costumes.”
“Let’s not go.”
“But you said—”
“I’ll look stupid. Dressed like this. Christ. You’re wearing a tux.”
When they met the next evening, she was no longer angry.
“I should have told you,” she said. “I could have bought you some clothes. I forgive you. It wasn’t your fault.”
She wore the loose garments of Mon Mothma, a leader of the Galactic Senate. He was Cassian Andor.
“When I get married,” she told him, “I’m wearing Padme Amidala’s wedding dress. And my groom will wear Anakin Skywalker’s formal robes.”
He touched the charm of her Mon Mothma necklace.
“What if your groom doesn’t want to?”
“Dear, he won’t have a choice. If we marry, he’ll wear what I say.”
They went to laser tag once in their costumes. She was Enfys Nest, the leader of the Cloud Riders. He was an armored Knight of Ren.
“Take a look around,” he told her when they were surrounded by a swarm of foul-mouthed teenagers. “You know what’s about to happen. You know what we’re up against.”
She held her laser-gun close. He heard her breaths through her mask.
“We need you,” she told him.
“What about what you need?”
A beam of light shot above them.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.
“You probably don’t.”
“And what precisely am I supposed to know?”
He crouched with her beneath a wide wooden obstacle. He looked out from behind it. There were more teenagers than he could count.
“Attacking those teenagers isn’t my idea of courage,” he said. “It’s more like suicide.”
She turned away from him.
“Well,” she told him. “Take care of yourself then. I guess that’s what you’re best at, isn’t it?”
They died in an assault of laser-gun flashes.
“Sorry,” he told her, but she didn’t say anything.
“Sorry,” he said again.
Driving home from the laser tag arena, “Is something wrong?” he asked.
She didn’t answer. Her face was concealed by her mask, and if something was wrong, it was impossible to tell.
She was dressed as an Imperial stormtrooper. He was C-3PO, the golden translator droid, and when she asked him to tell her something in Jawa, he shrugged his shoulders and told her that he couldn’t speak any of the Star Wars languages.
“Not even Wookie?” she asked him.
“Not even Wookie.”
They sat together in her living room. He asked her to tell him all the things that he didn’t know about her—where she was from originally, whether she had siblings, what music she listened to—but she wouldn’t answer him.
“None of that matters,” she told him. “Let’s just talk about Star Wars.”
He took the mask from his head and put the mask by his side. He touched the white plastic helmet that she wouldn’t remove.
“I loved you,” he told her.
He put the mask on his head again and went from the couch. Leaving her apartment for the last time, he told her, “I am not the droid you’re looking for.”
“No,” she answered. “You are not the droid I’m looking for.”