The Human Comedy: Star Light, Star Bright
It had been a long time since Angie had seen the stars.
Normally, when she looked to the heavens in the whirring metropolis of Manhattan, all she saw was metal, glass and ConEdison wattage. Humans had created a city that reversed the workings of the night sky; whereas the lights of New York could be seen from space, the lights of space could not be seen from New York.
As an architectural lighting designer, Angie was one of the young hotshots responsible for the fault in our man-made stars. She was paid — handsomely — to illuminate some of the very buildings that made stargazing one of the few things you couldn’t do in the Big Apple.
At first, she didn’t know why she’d rushed back to her hometown of Mystic, Connecticut, for an impromptu Labor Day Weekend retreat. She needed out of the city — she knew that much — but she could (and normally would) have gone with her friends to Jones Beach. What was there for her to do in Mystic? Spend time with her parents?
She barely lasted two hours in her childhood home before she grabbed her car keys. She was looking for something, but it wasn’t College Football Live with her dad and brother hogging the sofas. Twilight had fallen like a linen bedsheet, and Angie plugged “Narragansett, RI” into her GPS. She’d been there as a child — that’s how she explained the impulse to herself. She rode U.S. 1 along the coast, black and white and yellow walled by green and brown and the fading sun. Her GPS led her onto backroads through even heavier woods, then across a small bridge, and then it declared to her, as she reached the middle of a highway with no discernible stopping place: “You have arrived.”
Arrived? Angie smiled. Arrived where? According to her GPS, Narragansett, RI was a clump of evergreens on a hill. Naturally, she pulled over and hopped out. Night had fallen. She looked to the sky.
There is a power to the stars. Their light can zap into us, awakening our consciousness from whatever it was that held our attention before. As Angie’s neck craned backward, she realized exactly why she had come home: She had missed Miss Universe.
Above her, above the lines of pines and the trio of wispy clouds that pretended to give a damn, there they were. They had always been there, but boy, had they been hiding! The girl who worked on lights had forgotten how they worked on her. The view literally took her breath away — her lips cracked open, her eyes tripled in size, and her mind stopped. This was no translucent glimpse of the Big Dipper and a handful of other orbs — this was a down comforter of darkness, stretched across the world in all directions, completely saturated with gold leaf glitter. Stars, in innumerable numbers, twinkling and blinking and winking at her. She tried to focus on one at a time, but the sheer scope of the tapestry made the task impossible. They were everywhere, clearer than day, and all of a sudden she could feel that the stars were here, and she was there. The light had departed some of those constellations millions upon millions of years ago, and here she was, receiving it, now. The beauty of it — how could she describe it? She couldn’t even find the words to explain the wonder to herself — all she could do was laugh, out loud, because it had been that long since she had witnessed something that, for thousands of years of human history, was the natural way to experience an evening. It dawned on her, in that moment, that coming home was a way for her to remind herself that there remained many places where that still was the natural way to experience an evening. She had arrived.
When she returned to The City That Never Sleeps two days later, she entered her morning meeting with a sly grin. “I have an idea for the Peterson extravaganza,” she told her boss. “You better call the planetarium. We’ll be needing their help.”
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Photograph by Calvin W