Stars So Bright...

March 21, 2008
Stars so bright you could see heaven if only it wasn’t so far away, if only you could see that far.

“This is it,” he says, pulling up to a farmhouse, big, white, it stretches around the block.

“Want to see the yard?”

I nod and he shuts off the ignition.

“What are you doing?”

“You said you wanted to see it.”


“Well come on.”
With a smile like that nobody would say no.

I unbuckle my seatbelt and get out of the car, grass wet on my feet through my flip-flops, dew already forming for the morning. No lights are on in the house, but that doesn’t mean nobody’s home.

Jake starts walking around the house to the backyard, hopping over the tiny fence and assuming I’m following him.

“Jake,” I say, “isn’t this trespassing? What if they’re home?”

He looks up at the house, at the slightly faded paint and the huge windows.

“They’re not.”

I look up at the windows.

“Don’t worry about it,” he says, and takes my hand, pulling me over the fence with him.

“This is where the swingset used to be,” he says, still holding my hand—he’s never done that before—and leading me around the yard. “And we’d sled down here,” pointing down a hill now overgrown with berries and ferns.

We end up back at the fence, the tour is over, I guess, and Jake looks back at the yard for a minute.
He shakes his head. “We used to do something here all the time,” he says, “When there was nothing else to do and we weren’t ready to call it a night yet.”
He drops his backpack to the ground and loosens his grip on my hand, reaching in and pulling out two glowsticks and his Nikon.
Who’s we? I want to ask but I don’t, because it’s the past and the people are ghosts, in truth or not.

“Want to?”

He reaches the glowsticks out to me and motions towards his camera.

I know what he’s asking before he even explains it, and I slowly smile and take the glowsticks from his hands, looking back at the farmhouse once more to make sure nobody’s there. I run to the other end of the yard, breeze cold and dew soaking into the bottom of my jeans. The glowsticks crackle as I fold them, lighting them up, and I hold them above my head in squiggles, drawing designs and stars within the real ones, tracing Jake’s outline, tracing the moon, as he stands and takes pictures of me, light in motion. I spell out words—I…L—O—V—…

I trace everything I can’t say in the blazing dust of the glowsticks against the dark.

“Oh no,” Jakes murmurs, lowering the camera and whipping around towards the street.

I follow his gaze and see a car pulling up the long driveway, briefly illuminating Jake’s parked at the end of the street. The glowsticks drop from my hands and disappear in long wet grass, and I silently run over to Jake. He stuffs his Nikon in his backpack and hops over the fence, turning and waiting for me to follow.

“Come on,” he motions with his hand, grabbing my hand again as I jump over the fence. We run, him pulling me along slightly behind him, leading me, he knows the yard better than I do. He goes in between two oak trees in the front yard, hidden behind a rhododendron bush. The mulch is wet, too, and leaves drip down on us as we stand there, panting, watching from our corner as the owners of the house get out of their car and make their way to the front door.

Jake brushes his hair out of his eyes and stares at the house, and I can see him taking mental pictures of it, comparing them to what he used to know, what used to be here—who used to be here.

“Did you like living here?” I ask him quietly, and he turns to me like I’ve jolted him out of a memory.

He nods. “Yeah,” he whispers, “a lot.”

The owners go inside and we see lights go on within the house, can’t see in because of the curtains, and Jake turns towards the street and motions for me to follow.

We get in his car and drive away and it’s like we never left. It’s like we never stopped. He shows me around more, points out places and things that he knows—that he knew—letting me into his world for the last time before we go.

“See the graffiti?” he asks as we drive under a bridge.

I can’t miss it; it’s covering the bridge’s sides, and when I look up I see it’s on the top, too. It’s not normal graffiti, though—it’s all black and white, no colors slapped on randomly, just swirls of black and white, grey mixed in between, a huge mural of the world without color.

Jake pulls the car over underneath the bridge. It’s dark but the headlights are on, and I can make out designs in their glow.

“I did that one,” he says, pointing to his left to a drawing of a beach, a black sun over white sand with black and white waves. “And see the heart with A+M inside?” He reaches over and points out my window.


“That’s Ashley and Michael.”

“Your friends?”

He nods and starts the car, pulling out onto the street and doing a three-point turn. We start heading home, and after about a half hour I start recognizing things—we’re not in his old world anymore, we’re in our new one.

As we get closer to his house I know this is the end.

“I hate this part,” I say, watching the trees pass as Jake gets off the highway and turns onto Main Street. It’s completely dark except for traffic lights, and there are no other cars on the road except Jake’s. We stop at a red light and he glances over at me.

“What part?”

“Saying goodbye.” I can’t look at him so I look at the deserted street, the closed Wild Oats, the road leading into the trees seeming to go to nowhere.

We pull into his driveway and Jake gets out of the car, comes around to my side as I climb down too. He looks into my eyes for a second and then looks away, like he needs a distraction in case I say it, in case I say everything that he won’t.
It’s not goodbye forever, but it’s goodbye for now, and when for now turns into forever I want him to know everything I wish I said and maybe even some things I wish I didn’t say, because forever is a damn long time.

“See,” he says, “Remember, I was telling you before? The star patterns?”
He takes his hand and holds it out in front of him, takes his other arm and loops it around me. Tight and close.

“Look,” he whispers. “Can you see it now?”

I glance up at the sky and see nothing but specks of light, no formations, no patterns. Black and sparkles.

I shake my head. “No.”

His grip tightens around my waist a little as he moves his head closer to mine. His eyes are still staring at the sky.
“See, it’s along this line,” he says, drawing a squiggle with his free hand in front of our faces. His eyes move to mine as he turns me around in his arms.

It’s now.

It’s supposed to be now.

In this split second it’s supposed to happen, we’re supposed to be…us…just us, for one last time before everything changes. We’re supposed to be us, all of us and none of us and more than us, more than we ever were. We’re supposed to be the same, be the familiar, and be the changing.

It’s supposed to be now but it’s not, and as soon as he looks away I know it’s never going to be—never for now, never for always, never for maybe.
I know that one of us has to be the one to walk away, but I’m praying to God it’s not me.

“I don’t know how to say goodbye to you,” I say, my throat getting tight and my eyes beginning to sting because I know I’m going to cry but I don’t think I can.

He gives me a hug and whispers, “I love you,” in my ear, and I can tell that in this moment it’s the closest and farthest apart we are and ever will be.

“I’m going to miss you,” he says, and I can feel his breath in my hair as we hug, and I want to say it back—I’m going to miss you, too—but the words don’t come out right, not like they’re supposed to.

And he’s the one to walk away first, he gets in his car and I see the lights go on and hear the engine as I walk back down my driveway, not wanting to be there, waiting for him to leave, waiting for the end, like I always am waiting for him.

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