Years ago, we stood under a moonless sky
looking at stars.
We tried to figure out
which one was which
and who was who.

Trouble was we had only twenty fingers between you and me.
How many celestial objects could you point with these?
What about the ones that slip away?
What about the ones that died fifteen years ago,
the ones whose deaths would reach us tomorrow?

Stars create light
not knowing how far it will go.
I don’t know if they care.

You tell me you began collecting them when you were five.
I started at seven.
You slowed down at six;
you were afraid you’d drain the sky of its brightness if you kept adding to your collection.
Who would want a box full of light in a world dressed in black when they turned ten?

When you turned eight,
you left the box open outside your door,
uncovered under a depleted sky.
There was a meteor shower that night; the universe was thanking you for setting its children free.

As you grew, you would see it expand, its brood growing.

You made friends with the distant lights;
you were an easy talker
and they could listen.
Man, they could listen and listen and listen
all through the night.

Maybe the day gave them time to sleep over your stories, to absorb them.
Maybe that’s why they would come back brighter the next night.
You wondered if they used your stories.
You gave them some more hoping they’d get brighter.

They never disappointed you,
and you never ran out of stories.

On a clear night, you could weave a trail across constellations, following the path of your tales.
The sky, a network of your memories.
Your first kiss driving a cleft between the stars of Orion’s belt,
the school bullies pierced by the horns of Taurus,
Aquarius carrying memories of the cat you rescued from bandicoots
but could not save from being blinded by street cats.

Some stories would sink into a black hole,
their memory shredded in a vacuum.
Deservedly so, you think.

Why would you want to remember
the time you were groped on a bus,
the time you were told geeks could not play football,
the time your first poem was ridiculed when a friend saw what you had scribbled,
the day a part of you went six feet under?

There they stayed for years. Some defied physics and came back to haunt you.
You were stronger this time; you had brighter stars to lean on.
Some of them lent you their colours,
some their burnt edges.
From a few you borrowed unyielding streaks of light.

Some stories stayed put in the black hole
while it collapsed in on itself.

It’s a good sign, you tell me. Every scar can’t make a bookmark.

We are out wading around the universe tonight,
floating between those celestial lights.
Somehow, you’ve managed to whizz past black holes.

Looks like it’s a new trick you’ve learnt.


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