The Art of Stargazing
It’s half past midnight when my best friend and I make our way to the beach and settle next to each other in the sand. To me, stargazing is the antithesis of anxiety. I’ve spent hours rewriting a single sentence. As a little kid, making a birthday card was an environmental hazard. I would remake the card over and over again because of the slightest imperfections. I’d cringe looking at a flower with any wilting petals. And if my ponytail had a single bump, I had to remake it before stepping outside. I tend to overthink and fret about most things, but that anxiety is significantly decreased when I’m taking in the expansiveness of our galaxy. There is no wrong way to stargaze, much like there is no wrong way to act with your best friend. It doesn’t matter whether you chat enthusiastically or share a peaceful silence if it is organic to your relationship. In life, we are often encouraged to engage in shallow pleasantries. But, with our eyes on the heavens and our toes in the sand, there is no need to force conversation. Rather, we can allow the natural flow of topics to come up without ample effort. It doesn’t feel like mourning, talking about the dead. It feels like honoring and expressing love for those we’ve loved who now live amongst the stars. Staring up at the night sky, it’s impossible not to recognize how insignificant our individual lives are. The vast expanse of infinite space cannot be stuffed into a Hallmark card or a Russell Stover commercial. It’s an experience that must be lived. Lying on the sand, I watch the starlight extinguish the dwindling embers of my worries.
Trigger Warning: mentions of suicide
An acidic taste stung the sores in my throat.
I squinted at the nickel bolt as it retracted itself into the chipped woodwork. I watched as my mother dragged herself over the threshold to join me in the dismal, musky study. She donned a modest, unembellished frock. It was the colorless shade of a bottomless chasm. I thought she looked horrible. And yet, my mother was so cruelly flawless that she made even misery look tasteful. I shrank, recalling my own homely reflection.
“What’s the matter?” my mother asked, planting herself next to me on the warped hardwood floor.
“Just tired,” I lied, savoring our mutual bitterness as it wafted through the air.
She hummed disapprovingly. Anticipating her callous response, the blood drained from my face. I knew those searing globs had stained my eyes a hideous shade of crimson. Looking away from me, she pointed her glare at the painting above the fireplace. The ostentatious family portrait featured a view of our waterside estate.
“That’s horrible, Lorraine. Lying is such a tacky habit.”
The pressure in the room had shifted again. I was unsure if my brain was swollen, or if my skull had decided to shrink. The pain was excruciating. I was briefly worried that the truth might humiliate my mother. Then I remembered how my parents would shove us out the back door if we had a meltdown. They claimed it nauseated them. “Crying is a selfish habit. It will not be tolerated in this household.” I remember thinking they were merciful because they allowed us back in the morning.
“I want to die.”
“Go ahead. I’ll be right behind you.”
I received a haunting premonition of a coffin being lowered into our family burial plot. It was sizable enough to hold two bodies.
She shut her eyes briefly, pinching the bridge of her nose.
“I didn’t raise you to be a suicidal wench…”
I stopped listening to her and thought of those full pill bottles, resting upstairs in the right-hand drawer of my bathroom vanity.