I used to practically worship the stars. The glimmer that tinged the sky seemed to hold a message of hope. Somewhere out there, way out there, there was a chance of someone being just like me. Someone who would stare out at the black sky with its minuscule polka-dots and just think.
It didn’t matter how cold it was; I’d stay outside for as long as I could. I’d escape the aroma of strict chemicals and harsh antibacterial soap by sitting on top of my roof. For as long as I could remember, I had been good at climbing. I would straddle my windowsill, shivering in excitement, then pull myself up. The frigid shingles were always more welcoming than my warm bed or the arms of my parents. The roof had so much more to offer me.
I never told my parents or any of my family that would visit me every so often about my little escape. It was a secret that was mine to keep—my love affair with the sky. Whenever I told my parents that I wanted to be an astronomer, they would just sigh. How would they feel if they discovered that I spent most hours of the night upon the roof, which was untouched by their rigorous and unending cleaning routines?
It all started when I learned that everything on Earth was made from stardust - including me. I don’t remember if I learned it from the pages of a wrinkled book, a dim screen, or the monotone voice of my father. That day, which was so long ago and hidden in the back of my mind for safe-keeping, changed my life. I have never owned a telescope, and I know now that I never will. I didn’t need one, though. I had eyes, large and bright eyes, my grandma would say. Eyes that looked like amber and sparkled like my beloved stars.
Most of my family thinks that since I’m obsessed with the stars and their shine, that I’d also be in love with the planets. However, that has never been and never will be the case. Everyone tells you to aim for the stars, but planets are where normal things happen. Where coarse parents scrub their walls three times a day while their child grows dizzy with the overbearing scent of their work. Planets are where little kids find themselves face to face with needles as long as their fingers. Stars are where good people go when they die. The stars are the home of kind souls that are warmer than anyone I’ve ever met could be. The stars were my goal for my current life and the one that comes after death.
Though, thinking that makes me slightly guilty. My parents despise it when my mind goes anywhere near death or the afterlife or anything of that sort. I just find it so easy. The stars have always felt more like home than anything my hard-working parents could provide. Though, I could never tell them that. To them, I just existed in the little bubble that was our sterile home. I loved the constant visits from family, and I was fine with always being in the presence of someone who was near tears simply because they were looking at me. They thought that I was a good child that went to bed as soon as I was told. That I didn’t view a ceiling as a prison or a window as an invitation. They had always been very wrong about me, and I never attempted to correct them. I saw no point. They wanted a certain type of child, and I pretended to be exactly that. They didn’t need to know that I was anything different or anything more.
Perhaps that was where I had made my mistake. If they knew who I was, who I really was under the abrasive scent of lemon and chemicals, maybe I would have had a bit more freedom. I would’ve grown up under the sky. Maybe they would’ve found a way to give me every star that there is to see. Maybe the roof wouldn’t be so cold, and the long nights wouldn’t be so alone. Maybe that’s why I didn’t tell them. I didn’t care how much the temperature dropped, and I could never feel alone under the stars. I knew many stars by name. There is Sirius, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Fomalhaut, Vega, Canopus, Altair, Aldebaran, Arcturus, Deneb, Canis Majoris, and so many others. They were my friends. They were my comforters on the nights that I felt like crying, my supporters on the days I felt like giving up. I didn’t need my parents or my mournful family that I will never be able to truly know when I had the sky. That’s all I needed. Most days, when our home star peeks over the squat houses that filled up my bland neighbourhood and nameless town, I retreated to my room to my cell. That’s when people started using my name, but when I lost it. I have lived my life as a shadow, a drifting spirit, thirsty not for the sun, grass, or human connection but for starlight.
It sounds like I’m ridiculous. My parents love me in their odd way, and they try to keep me safe from all of the extra things that could hurt me in unimaginable ways. It’s not their fault that they haven’t realized that they were hurting me. I had a brief window of time to drink the sky, and they never realized that I needed to take it. Nobody but me did. It’s only when I think about that, in the light of day that creeps and trickles through my window, that I feel alone. When I know an impenetrable shield of light blots out my stars. A shield that everyone else craves but I want to hide from. Is that a bad thing? Does that make me a bad person for not wanting the light that allows me to live for my fleeting amount of time? Should I honour it? Should I put on a happy face for it too?
A month ago, I would’ve said no. A month ago, I would’ve closed the curtains until my mother forced them open. I would ignore the day by shoving my nose into books about space and the stars. My entire life was for my stars, my little slices of freedom, the twinkling lights that told me that everything was going to be ok. It is currently night. I can feel it. My parents have gone to bed. My relatives have left. I am the only person awake in this house. It would be time for me to fling my window up and fall into the open arms of my galaxy. But the window is closed tonight. It was closed last night, and it will be closed tomorrow, and it will be closed forevermore. The stars are no longer my home or my companions. Two weeks ago, on a day that should’ve been like any other, I woke up to an unforgiving vision of pure black. I screamed for the first time that morning in… I don’t know how long. It was that day that I had discovered my cancer had stolen my eyes and, in doing that, my sky.