October 22, 2020 6:41am pdt

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The Stars

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"After returning from the Midwest, I was handed my parents' older computer to use as they had just upgraded. The machine was not capable of very much, but did have a word processor, and having just completed three grammar and composition courses to earn a diploma, the juices for creating stories were still flowing despite driving across the country. Throughout several weeks I tried to recall what living in California was like. Everything seemed different, yet I was happy to be in their house with options before me. I had missed the little enjoyments and holiday gatherings for two years. Even then, comfort was key. I had my most prized possessions with me, the computer, and all of my assignments from school in Michigan.

Two months passed before I found work, and the time was December. Yep, the holiday period and once again I had the events and cool weather ahead. The massive downside was giving up the life in Michigan and all of the love that went with it. I had been very unhappy with myself due to the circumstances which took place before I packed and drove home. At the outset of ninety-six, my creative writing took a back seat here and there as I drew symbols and small representations of what I had caused. I still have those drawings now, and some were important enough to place in my skin. Upon completing part of what I had intended to be a much larger picture, my head returned to the computer and I began to create extensions of a few short stories from school. Each evening I would sit and keep myself quiet while trying to think of characters as they might relate to me. Whenever I took a break to step outside and smoke, I typically looked up to the stars. I saw exactly the same image of the sky as in the Midwest, of course, as we are but one tiny speck in the grandness of the universe. The stars had followed me home and were there again for my wonder.

My buddy and I delved into putting together some better computing equipment for playing more elaborate games and the idea soon took over as I shelved the writing in favor of more entertainment. Building the machines was fun and exciting, as we learned each step together and pieced them a little at a time. I had been working with him in a plant from the past (which had changed quite a bit but still I fit it after knowing the processes for years), and each day we discussed the ideas for what to use inside for sound and other things. Once my computer was complete, we installed a few programs and sat in wonder as the imagery and sound took us from ourselves. Working swing shift meant I would come home and eat, followed by diving into the games for a while prior to sleep. Months of it. Work, games, food... I had been enjoying the time and rarely felt as if anything had been lost. That would come later.

Between rounds of the game? Outside to see the stars again. Still there.

Nine years. Right in the middle of a very consistent part of my life.

Working within the astronautic and space fields, I saw the stars differently, as if I had some kind of connection to them through my job. Ours was a small paragraph within the giant story of the space program, but still we were doing something in support of two different types of missions, one of them being planetary geology. One mission in particular took more than a year of research and preparation and had been intended to impact a comet with a small spacecraft and study the ejecta from here. Upon completion of our research, much time passed before the machine was launched. Months later I was strolling through a campground north of home and toward the middle of the night when I spied a group of people gathered and staring up at the clear, black sky. I overheard musings regarding the mission in question, so I stepped to them and offered direction for their binoculars to possibly view the impact of the craft. They asked of my knowledge, and I passed it off that I had been involved with some of the principal minds behind the mission, but nothing more. As I moved away and continued toward the restroom, I paused, looked up at the mass of stars, and dreamed of those moments outside my parents' house upon returning from the east. Again, no change. They appeared stagnant and perpetual, a stoic representation of the creeping pace of the universe. I knew that over time they would appear differently as relational positions would change, however by the lateness of anything noticeable, the likelihood of life still roaming this planet is slim. The stars were there in all their quiet beauty, and staring back at me again.

Shortly after that camping trip and comet mission, we took a drive in the summer heat to Death Valley. Just shy of two years after I had spent time there with Juliette, I found myself nearly nude and standing upon a small boulder in the empty campground very late at night. The wind was moving pretty well, the sky was completely clear and inundated with stars as we were so far from cities, and the heat had been hanging on into the late hours. I stood there and saw parts of the sky otherwise hidden while at home. Not even older trips to those campgrounds which felt as if they were way outside the populace had shown me so much. Millions, and the words to describe such a mass of points in the sky simply fail. I stood in the ninety-plus degree wind and saw my past. There it was, from Michigan through all of the changing places where I had lived since, and right up to the very second I stood on that rock. I was frozen there and unable to pull myself from the sight, piling memories and emotion.

Five more years. Fall again, just before Halloween.



321

My place in the universe?



Home in the valley. Warm weather, the smell of fireplaces, and very little sound. We lived exactly one half mile from the airport and directly in the flight path of the same. Only one street separated our house from the approach lights. I had been having much trouble dealing with feelings for a woman and nearly faltered that night right in my own living room. Out the door, tears in my eyes, and the fleeting idea to run to her across the bay. I did not, and upon her calming my head, I strolled to the path which led along toward the runway and stood in the darkness. Upward, there they were... The same stars with Ursa Major right in the center, hanging there and looking back at me as if to inform me that my decision was not the issue. Just like in the desert, I saw my past and all those places, each holding a bevy of memories and difficulties. I knew not what to do, yet the stars paid no mind. Stagnant and beautiful. I went back inside and continued with my life, such as it was.

Five more years.

I parked the car directly in front of Her house, thought for a second because what we were planning was wrong, and then moved around the corner to hide it. Knock, knock. And there She was, all lotion scent and sun dress. She invited me inside and informed me that dinner was on the stove and we could pour some wine and wait. A little conversation later, and I was taken off my feet by Her soft lips. Oy. The evening went along in directions I had not imagined, after which I took off for home and stopped for something cool to drink upon reaching town. Back into the car, I drove my sorry self to the house, parked, and stepped out to see the windows still glowing with light from inside. I needed a moment to realize the gravity of my actions so I stood there sipping the water and staring up at the sky. The stars, yet again. They were gazing down at my tiny self and looked peaceful in defiance of the storm in my head and heart. Again I saw the desert, my parents' townhouse, the campground and the approach to the airport. I saw Michigan, too. And I even had a glimpse of the balcony outside the home of my girl some twenty-plus years earlier. Yes, that period. All of it swirled inside me before I decided to let go of the stars and head inside to one of the most difficult nights I had ever experienced. Days later, everything blew over and calmed. The stars did not bat an eye.

Again... Five years burned away.

During many mornings as I stood outside with coffee and awaited my partner for work, the stars were there. After years of the same routine, I became accustomed to the manner in which the sky's layout slowly changed with the seasons. I remember wishing to see Ursa Major in a vertical orientation and Orion nowhere to be found because that meant fall and into my favorite time of year. During the early months, I could see Ursa rotating downward to eventually fall horizontal, and that was the solstice which I have never enjoyed. But no matter the season, weather, or hours of daylight, those stars were up there for me to look upon in wonder. My reference for life, or at least, the one I have lived thus far. From the writing on that old snail of a computer twenty-five years ago, all the way to recent nights with clear skies, I saw them and considered everything I have done along with every place I've lived.

Just last night I was in the yard and gazing upward. Stars. No change.

Everything flooded into me at once and I do not know who or what I am. The only constant is the group of lights up there which never changes. Always there. Always bright when the weather permits. Perhaps each one of those tiny, distant points of light is a place I've been, or maybe an event which transpired between nights of staring upward. I have no idea. And as much as I look forward to seeing the infinite spread of those stars which have followed me to this very second, I do not see possibility.

I see turmoil."



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