When I went up to college 500 miles away, I brought a glow in the dark star for every mile that separated me from home.
I’m sure my roommates thought I’m afraid of the dark: when I tried fitting them all up on the plywood that supported the bunk above me, it was so bright I couldn’t sleep.
I’m not afraid of the dark.
I’m afraid of getting lost, of not being able to find my way home. So I’ve always had glow in the dark stars in my room. They’re the first thing I see in the morning and the reassurance I need to go to sleep.
When you asked what I was doing the day after I moved into my dorm and I told you that I was putting up 500 glow in the dark stars, you acted like that was the most normal thing in the world. I asked if you wanted a few, and you said yes.
I spent my second night away from home standing on your bed in almost complete silence, hanging my stars for you in a constellation on your ceiling.
Not too long after that, I fell in love with you.
It was so easy; I fell for you like the stars in your room fell when the adhesive wore out.
And I knew you fell too when I noticed you slip one of the stars into the pocket of your favorite jacket. I never saw you take it out, and I’d occasionally see the outline of it against the thin material.
God damn it, you were beautiful.
We spent hours reading together, my feet in your socks, your head in my lap, my hands tangled in your hair.
You drew the maps in my head of this city with memories. Outlined the streets in conversations and cups of coffee, shaded the squares with the texture of your hand in mine. You once told me in a love letter that I’d never be alone, no matter what.
And sometimes, you’d stretch your arms as wide as you could. I love you this much; you’d say dramatically, your eyes and smile comically wide and eyebrows lifted. I used to admire the span of your lanky arms, laughing with you over the idea that you could quantify love in a distance.
I stopped laughing when I had to leave college in the spring, I got terribly sick, but we told each other it was OK, that our love was bigger than the miles that separated us.
But some time between spring and fall, you cut off all of your hair and lost the ability to look me in the eyes.
I still have love notes, photos and a few spare socks of yours. I loved you more than the span my fingertips can stretch, more than the miles, just like I promised.
I don’t know what to do with all this space, because all that’s left of your love for me fits in my two small hands.
I still have problems sleeping sometimes. I get lost in this city without your ghost.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’d really appreciate it if you took that last star out of your pocket, because you’re carrying around a piece of my sky and no matter how many stars I put up, I haven’t been home in six months.