Ad Astra

I watch you. To an outsider, a stranger, coming on the scene unawares, you would look comfortable, unconcerned; a man gazing at the stars, head pillowed on the soft ground. Your eyes, it seems, focused on nothing but those dazzling, dancing, crystal shimmers; those far-off points of lucidity.Shining, shining.

I, though, who know you like my own skin, own self, am not blind to your truth; you are sightless to the skies. All you see, smell, taste, touch, is the sweet-smelling coolness of the grass, then the gorge-rise of the dirt as it surrounds your hair your neck your hands as you dig, dig, deep into the soil.A constant churn and changing of the darkness beneath.

The dancing wonderment above you, which, like a dog, sitting on its hind legs, is begging for you to notice it and pay it attention, however absent-minded, will never be thrown a bone.

“Look at us!”
“You must look! For we shine! We shine!”

What they don’t understand is to call to you is a useless vanity. Cold impersonal beauty could never compete, in its clarity, with the blur of salt-soaked and sweat-laden tears. With the white-hot sting of hurt.

I fell in love with you in a heartbeat and a sentence.

It’s as simple, and as enormously, wildly, complicated as that.

It was when you said you would try to kiss all my freckles, and I screamed laughing, “that’s impossible, you nong, there’s more than the Milky Way alone just on my back!” – do you remember – and you snorted, said “oh my word, yes – an entire galaxy of freckles; there’s an idea. A constant recount as old stars turn into red dwarfs, and black holes, and new stars take their places. I’ll be counting them for infinity!

“Just think. Constellations of kisses. Supernovas of smooches. Asteroids of amorous intent.”

I’m certain that day ended in silly kissing blissful laughter, you tickling me to the point of wet-myself hysteria (how did you always, always know that one spot – just here – that’s right, here, near my hip bone – guaranteed to make me hiccup like a lunatic, cross my legs like a three year old?). Then; with the inevitability of night following day, or the moon showing her shy face after the sun’s brilliance fading to the west – the fizz, pop of champagne. Bed. Although. Blushing, just a little; you could put ‘insert day here’ and make it apply.

Happiness, in all its derivations, was never our issue.

Just as a binary star, to the naked eye we would show a single point of light. A bright, glowing, fizzy source of joy illuminating the day, then the darker hours when the world was quiet, and we found warmth and strength in each other.

Just us. Alone. Together.

In a thousand small movements, we were the opposite of a star. Night saw us retreat, not willing or wanting to dazzle the hours sub-dawn with our vividness, our luminosity. No; rather, we took the murmured indulgence of others as the gift it was, and snuck away to our quiet darkness.

The safety of murmuring cotton sheets, and white painted walls.

I think everyone naturally responds to sparkle; to light and translucent brilliance. It’s natural to respond to a good love story too, and the stars, you and I – us – well, we had that, in spades, in bucketloads.

If, of course, you are of the belief stars have a personality. I know you weren’t before we met, but – I like to think I brought you round. You have to admit, when I said, as you looked through the Dish ‘scope at Parkes, “that’s Andromeda, chained to her rock; she sits in the Perseus system” in my infamous Introduction To The Night Sky Chat [101] – never given before or since, may I add – it was slightly more interesting than “that’s Constellation M31, and fascinatingly it wasn’t given its Messier number until 1967”.

It’s a wonder you didn’t run for the hills then. I think it’s just because you thought I might throw a chunk of moon rock at you from inside the telescope dish.

I don’t know; maybe astronomers should be less fanciful about their subject matter, but it seems to me, the stars deserve their myths and legends. They need some hope, a resonance and reason to shine down on our beleaguered, shitty little world.

The conviction stands.

When I think of the diamond you gave me – and I forever shamed myself in the eyes of my brother by crying, as he scornfully said “like a girl”, when you asked me to marry you – oh. It seemed so cool, icy. Almost as scornful in its mystery, its blue light, as the wheeling majesty above. I shivered, remember – and you asked me what was wrong, and I didn’t want to say I felt it was all too perfect, too good, too wonderful, because that would insult the gift of the moment you’d given me.

Instead I threw my arms around you and kissed you as fiercely as I could, and told you I loved you, loved you, loved you.

Loved you more than all the stars in the sky.

Loved you to the moon and back.

Loved you to infinity and beyond, until finally you said “OK, calm down Buzz Lightyear”, although you were grinning from ear to ear and I knew, I just knew, you were jumping up and down inside.

I know I’m upsetting you, I know – it’s the yabber about the freckles and the kisses. But that was – is – us. There’s no law to say ‘you must wipe all these things from your mind, deny their truths’. You don’t have to feel as though it, that, us, all the memories, meanings, heartbeats, no longer exist, have no significance.

I am here. I am with you. I may not have been wrong about it all being too good to be true – actually, you know what, no. I take that back.

It’s wrong, unfair even, and does us both an injustice. Let’s just say, instead, this; that perhaps the fault, fate, or whatever goddamn bloody old Will said turned up in our personal stars, was a comet’s intense streak across the sky –

- not the slow diurnal dance of the earth around the sun.

Because here you are, now.

Your head is pillowed on the soft ground, the soft ground still fresh with turning from shovels, and the ceremony of dying and decay. I can tell the smell of the cut flowers is overpowering you.

They always did make you sneeze.

And somewhere down here, six feet under, as they say, I lie.

Below your head, your long, long, lithe body.

I know your hand reaches, strains, digs to find me there. I see your tears, as they sparkle in the light of the galaxy above you, and drip, drip, drip, into the damp soil.

All you’d ever find though – isn’t me. It’s just an empty husk, a spent shell-casing. My truth is gone; a bullet shot to the blue skies, taking the comet trail and riding it in reverse.

I can see you quite clearly from my airy breathiness, here in the freedom and fair dealings of the sky. I have no place in that suffocating mass of earthen stupor; I am with the brothers and sisters of my true heart’s knowing.

I have reached my stellar equilibrium.

I love you, still. Always. Ever.

As I shine.


This is an amended version of a short story written in 2015. The edited version first appeared on Medium.