When we pulled up to our new home in a small town in the pitch dark, I was overwhelmed by the size of the moon and the sky blanketed with bright and scary stars. I remember closing my eyes quickly and getting nauseous. My heart began to race and my mom became concerned about my breathing. I gripped my backpack as my sister led me inside this empty new house and sat me on the floor. When she asked what was wrong, I answered. She laughed. So did everyone else.
I grew up in New York City where the sight of stars were rare and the glow of street lights were comforting. There was always night but it was never dark; The city never slept. Our small apartment was surrounded by tall buildings that blocked the moon from my vision. I’m not saying that I didn’t know that the moon existed. I just didn’t care to know its existence. Until, I left the city that did so well with closing me in from the big scary world outside of it.
I was afraid of the stars. The sound of gunshots in the streets of Brooklyn daily couldn’t make me flinch. Laying still on the bedroom floor, pretending like we weren’t home while rioters looted stores and apartments during blackouts was a normal thing. I was like a conditioned deer to the dangers of my environment until twinkling starry nights brought me to my knees. The sight of the sky’s enormity and it’s endlessness made me lose sleep at night. I was no longer protected by the barriers of New York’s toxic glow.
For years, my family laughed at me. They would tell relatives and friends but then I met Josh. Our first time alone together on a date was under the stars. I held my eyes closed shut and naturally, he asked me what was wrong. I took a deep breath and braced myself for his laugh after my response. He did, in fact, laugh but at the fact that no one had ever explained to me how great the stars were. He held me by the chin and pleaded with me to open my eyes once more.
“Don’t be afraid of the stars anymore.” he said. I looked up, panting in fright and then he started to point and name them, one constellation at a time. He told me stories and shared memories. What I remember mostly about that night is how, in that moment, I had forgotten I was afraid at all.
As our relationship progressed (long distance), the moon became our connection. He’d guide me to find the moon and explained that no matter where we were, we were always looking at the same moon. In the Philadelphia nights, we’d going searching for the stars. Walking dark woods to escape the city lights. I learned to love them as I grew to love him.
I’m no longer afraid of the stars. Love has taught me to look for them. It has given me the strength to reach for them.