January 29, 2011

At the debate tournament last night, one of my students who came to observe and wander found a girl about his age who is just his match. They became fast friends in the course of an hour or so, and he introduced me to her later in the night. As the tournament dragged on into the later hours of the evening, they sat side-by-side leaning against the lockers. She curled beneath a blanket to warm her legs, which were otherwise bare. My student said, We are going to go watch the stars! Do you want to come? And she said, Yes, it is so clear, they are so beautiful tonight. I said no, hurriedly, and then went outside to see what I was missing.

I stood between two buildings and looked up at the sky through the winter bare branches of a sycamore tree and watched the stars for a long moment.

The winter sky was dark, true, but scarcely darker than it usually is. The stars shone brightly, true, but in the light of the city, they were no more plentiful than typical.

I strained to see what these students could see.

And then I remembered being 15 and sneaking out into the late or early hours of the night. I wore a tank top, and short shorts, and you sat beside me and our bare arms brushed and your skin was intoxicating. You leaned into me, and pointed out every constellation that you knew, and maybe some that you made up just to be impressive. The stars had never seemed quite as bright, and I barely noticed the cold.

I smiled to myself to remember this, and you, who I haven’t seen now for maybe 10 years, and I walked back inside.

My student asked me, Do you want to come with us?

And I said again, no, but I fully support you going. The stars are beautiful tonight.