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Stars in the City
They had met in a diner beforehand as an unspoken agreement. Mr. C had only mentioned, in an offhand way, that there was going to be a meteor shower that night, and who could miss that? His fifth period astronomy students exchanged questioning looks, as if to say, “Will you be there?”
That question was answered as all 23 of them gathered outside Joe’s Greasy Plate, with the famous flickering pink sign illuminating their faces.
“Let’s do this,” someone said, and they trudged down the garbage-filled alley, breath making little fading spirits in the cold night air.
They lay in the alley: the lovers, the haters, the singers, the dreamers, the killers. There was some grumbling, but nobody left. Nobody got up. They were waiting for the stars to come out.
Finally, someone—no one was sure who, afterwards—cried out and pointed up to the first star.
“Sirius. Dog Star,” a killer said. “Brightest star in the effin’ sky.”
There was a collective sigh, as they admired the hot blue of the celestial body. Like everything else in their lives, the stars had always seemed so far away. But now it seemed as if you jumped up, you could harvest one for your very own.
The stars were followed by the meteors. The first one to shoot across the sky was minutes earlier than the rest. It was quick, but oh, so bright, like the life of a teenage star who swallowed the bullet after a short and famous life.
And then, like a rainstorm, they all came, streaking through the path of the stars to leave burning trails like finger paint. They lay there, enchanted, not knowing that they would never be able to see this beautiful sight again.
If only things could stay that way. All of them lying, heads together, telling their own stories about the constellations. All cliques, fights, and grudges forgotten, in one glorious, starry moment.
Someone in an upstairs room turned a boom box, shattering the moment. The pulsing, insistent rap music was greeted with swears and cries of “Oh, come on!”
Watches were checked, cell phones turned back on, and everyone agreed: their parents were going to kill them. Even the drunkest of the student’s folks would protest at their child getting back at 2 a.m.
They split up, each going their separate ways. The meteor shower was never mentioned at school. Each of the 23 wondered, at some point or another, if the entire night had happened at all, or if they had just dreamed it up to heal the aching in their heart.
They lay in the alley: the lovers, the haters, the singers, the dreamers, the killers. Each with their own private wishes and dreams. For just a moment, they felt as if all the bad things in the world didn’t exist—all that did were the stars.