The Color In Our Stars
We stepped from the pool just before dark, toweled off, rushed inside to grab the telescope.
Steph’s mom made her keep it in what they called the sewing-machine room, but it found second life as a junk store of sorts. She shifted a chair and two quilts, then carted the tripod away. I carried the little refractor.
Setting up on the carport, I smiled, wondering what our friends would think. Me a budding geek. Her, already there, and just about the only family with a pool, too. Doctor's money. A story for another day.
We set up, made chairs out of garden buckets, waited for dusk to turn starry. Maybe I wanted to hold her hand. Maybe not. She didn’t need me to, that’s for sure. We’d known of each other for a while, then struck up a conversation one day after leaving Mr. Wells’ physics class.
“You almost beat me today, on that refraction versus reflection thing.”
I only nodded. I mean, I’m sorry, boys aren’t ever sure how to speak to girls, or anyone really, especially in high school hallways. I eventually managed a mutter.
“Knew you would get it.”
“I know what they call me,” she added.
Was she referring to the teasing, and her accent? Or her love of science?
“But, I don’t mind. I mean if they don’t care to learn it, that’s their fault. I’m going to, and I’m going to let them know I’m smart.”
A pause. I’d been staring straight ahead, trying to match her quick steps. Long coal-black hair bounced around her shoulders.
“I’m not being rude. Father always says to stand steadfast. That’s what I’m doing.”
She meant it. And, I knew she didn’t need my approval, or support.
Maybe that’s why, on her porch that summer, waiting for the dark, and a chance to see the most beautiful pair of stars in the Milky Way, she held my hand. Not because I wanted it, but because she did.
We would turns at the eyepiece, the scope aimed nearly straight up at Albireo - tail star of Cygnus the swan, a deep gold and blue double star some 430 light years away. When you see it, it’s hard to describe. You think, looking out into our galaxy, that there is no color out there. Yet light blazes away in telescopes, in shades you can’t find even in the sixty-four color boxes. It felt like an hour before we breathed again.
“They will keep glowing and circling, patient and persistent, a hundred thousand years each orbit,” Steph said. Silence broke around me, and I heard again the crickets, summer bugs, a bird or two.
“Over and over, until they explode, turn to dust, blow across the Orion arm, seeding new life along the way, just like their ancestors did. Stars that blew themselves out so our sun could gather the dust, and rekindle old fires into life, here on a rock so far away that looking back out into space is looking back in time.”
Staring up, into the mountain sky, she feel silent. I swear I could see starshine in her eyes.
“So we're just stellar dust? Not even from Earth,” I said, turning back to the scope.
"More than that, Allen. Much more."
The night spun imperceptibly under the dome of our sky. We allowed it to pass, noticed.
"We’re all immigrants.”
A meteor should've streaked above us. It didn't. Another story for another day.
For International Women's Day, March 8, 2017
- Probably could've been written better, but the thought's there, I hope. Complete work of fiction. Dedicated to and channeled from the most woman of women I know: My best friend, my partner in life crime, my wife Catherine. #SheInspiresMe