Fiction 2014 / Volume 44

Sleepless Nights and Apologies — Heather Job

Three stars poke through the thick fog, like the stars guiding three wise men to sleeping Jesus in a manger. It’s a pathetic showing, but I can’t help feeling proud of those three pinprick stars for being so brave. They poke their heads over the smoke from the factories, jostling to see the city below.

I haven’t seen the stars in months, and this is refreshing.

I don’t know what they’re doing here, exactly. We’re caught in a cesspool of clouds and gray, where if it isn’t one thing it’s another keeping us from the stars. Thick clouds—natural, stubborn, grazing—and thick blankets piped out of smokestacks. It makes no difference.

I stand in the dim light of the streetlamps, white-orange like cream- sicles. Some of them are vivid orange, radiant suns mounted on steel; others are like small and personal moons. I like those the best. I like that I can reach out my hand and imagine the cool glass of the lamp beneath my fingertips. I like that if I climb the post, I don’t have to imagine. Manmade moons in the palm of my hand. By the light of my imagination I can see the world more clearly. I can sleep more soundly. I can breathe more deeply. My moods rise and fall with the tides and the moon, and sometimes I can squint at the stars so many miles away and sense that they aren’t there anymore. They’ve gone and turned themselves inside out and I am none the wiser; proof that decep- tion is fundamental to the universe, and that maybe you are actually made of stardust, because we, too, die years before anyone notices. Sometimes I just close my eyes and let the feel of the moon guide me, until I find myself exactly where I need to be, in the middle of the quad staring at the sky seeking the stars.

There are animals that navigate based on the location of the moon. I am one of those, but I am also a wanderer. When I can’t see the moon I sit in my room and write essays about social norms and basic sociology and when the moon is out I circle campus over and over and over again looking for a route that feels safe, that feels right, that makes sense. Sometimes I need to walk right off campus and just keep walking, but when I feel the urge I just take the quad for another loop. No one out there needs to watch me walk in circles until my brain is embossed with the ovals of sleepless nights, no one wants to watch the gears click into place until I am finally myself. I will walk laps tonight in honor of the three stars, like one of the three kings, but my only gifts are sleepless nights and apologies.

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