I’ve been sleeping with the nightlight unplugged,
With a note on the rocking chair
That says I’m dreaming of the life I once loved
So wake me if you’re out there
“Angels” by Owl City
* * *
The night sky had never looked emptier.
“You’re really not giving me much to work with, Aimee,” I muttered, adjusting the lens of my telescope for the fifth time. I sighed, frustrated, and let out a tired laugh. “You always made this look easier than it is.”
So many nights had been spent on this balcony with its crudely painted walls–an attempt to cover up the chipped gray behind it. Aimee had excitedly proposed the idea one night as we were lying on the floor of the balcony, staring at the sky as she pointed out constellations I pretended to see. I mostly just watched Aimee. She would eagerly tap my shoulder every few seconds and dive into an animated explanation of what seemed to be every speck of the galaxy. She was incredibly passionate about it all. Even with my limited knowledge of astronomy, I couldn’t help but get caught up in her infectious enthusiasm.
“You want to paint it a dark blue then? To match the sky?” I asked, gesturing above us.
“No, no, not like that.” Aimee shook her head emphatically. “A light blue. Something bright and pretty and sparkling, like your eyes!”
I smiled. My eyes were green. Aimee was colorblind.
“That sounds perfect, Aimee.”
I traced my hands along intricate maps of stars that Aimee had drawn on the walls, now faded. Aimee had been gifted an old telescope and some books on astronomy from her grandmother that summer, and she had taken ambitiously to stargazing. My parents had been mildly horrified at first by Aimee’s wall art, but I defended Aimee, and when they saw the attention to detail that she had put into it, they were amazed, and they actually encouraged Aimee to keep at it.
I turned my attention back to the night sky and dejectedly put away my telescope. I wasn’t going to find what I wanted tonight. 2:37am glowed red on my alarm clock. Aimee had always said that the stars were prettiest after midnight. A light knock on my door pulled me from my thoughts.
“Mira?” My mom stood at the door and paused for a moment, unsure, searching for her words carefully. “Are you doing okay?”
I continued to put away my telescope, my back turned to her. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“I know…” She took a deep breath. “I know that Aimee was important to you–she was important to all of us.”
My grip tightened around the telescope case.
“Mira, honey, it’s been five years.” She laid a hand on my shoulder gingerly. “I know you’re still hurting, but the closure you’re looking for… you’re not going to find it by staying up every night looking at the stars.”
I gritted my teeth and willed myself not to turn around. I wasn’t about to have this argument again.
“Mira…” she sighed.
After waiting a few moments, she finally left, pausing in the doorframe in hopes of a response before walking away. I sank down onto my bed and placed my face in my hands.
“What do you think happens when we die?” Aimee asked one night as we looked at the stars.
I yawned, turning to look at her. The bruise on her cheek had turned a deeper shade of purple.
“I don’t know,” I shrugged sleepily. “I’ve never really thought about it before.”
“Well, I want to be reborn as a new star… I think. Or maybe a meteor?” she pondered aloud. “Do you think I could become an entire planet?”
“If you want to,” I said.
“Well, whatever happens, I just know I’ll visit you.”
“Okay,” I said, smiling warmly at the thought. “But what if I die before you?”
Aimee frowned. “You’re not allowed to do that.” She turned her attention back to the sky, humming curiously to herself. “Maybe we could both become stars?”
She rambled on, and I closed my eyes, eventually drifting back to the sound of silence. I tilted my head up to Aimee. She was staring up at the sky, the usual look of wonder replaced with something quieter, more somber.
“You would never forget me, right, Mira?”
Aimee stared intently at me, looking to see if I was telling the truth. Contented, she nodded once and gave her usual smile.
“Right, of course,” she said.
The memories kept coming, and I stood up from my bed, restless. I could picture every smile so clearly in my head. My hands were already reaching for the telescope. I set it up just like Aimee had taught me. Almost five years ago, I had pleaded tirelessly with my mom to let me buy it. After working many, many odd jobs throughout the neighborhood, I came up with the money myself and bought it without her knowledge. When my mom saw me come home with a telescope in hand, she stared at it with a pained expression. I didn’t give her a chance to say anything about it. I ambled past her to set it up on the balcony, but I could hear her call up my dad from downstairs, saying something about a need to cope.
“Will this help her?” her voice echoed up the staircase. “I just… I don’t want this to set her back. It took months for her to even be able to speak to anyone again.”
I continued to fiddle with the telescope.
“Yes, yes. I know you’re right, but I’m still worried.”
I splashed my face with water. The sun was just rising, and I figured it was time to give up on sleep. The sun glowed faintly on my desk. I picked up the note that lay on top of it.
You’re my best friend forever and ever. Let’s continue to look at the stars together for a long time, okay? I love you endlessly, far beyond any galaxy I’ve ever known.
The note had come with an old birthday gift and was decorated with a picture of the stars, not unlike the map drawn on the balcony walls. Tears dripped down my face. It had been five years, five whole years, and it still hurt exactly the same.
Sara is seventeen and lives in Honolulu.