Up Above the World So High

May 18, 2015 by

Driving down the highway on my way out of my hometown, the lights of the final gas station for at least thirty miles fading in my rearview mirror, a single tear strolls silently and knowingly down my cheek and splashes on my collarbone. It comforts me, like an old, moist friend saying “I know what you’re feeling, I get it.” I take the comfort like a small child and more tears follow the first. I pass an exit to the reservoir, which had played a spectacular part in my adolescence; its unforgettable odor seemed to plague my hair the summers between being old enough to drive and old enough to vote. After that exit the road grows dark and my vision adjusts, albeit my headlights illuminating the immediate path. Ahead of me are lonely, unlit mountains covered with trees losing their leaves, black against a silky, navy blue sky. I pass the house of my brother’s first best friend and I recover a memory of climbing in the woods behind that house, hunting for wildflowers but only finding mushrooms.

“You can’t eat those.” My brother’s first best friend’s mother told me when I brought them to her.

“Why?” I’m sure my big, sparkly blue eyes glowed up at her in youthful curiosity.

“They might be poisonous,” she said, “not everything that looks safe, is safe.”

I could feel the engine in my car muster up power and growl as we climbed the elevation. My tears were slowing, becoming more serene as my mind numbed with nostalgia. I looked up through my driver’s side window to see the small twinkling lights in the sky look down on me in that way that did not condescend, but embraced, upon my humility and lost sense of self. As I reached the peakof the mountain the view opened up on my left and I decided not to look, because I’d seen the view so many times before. I don’t imagine much has changed. Ahead I see the pull off to the Blue Ridge Parkway and with tears stopped now, I decided to pull off so I could further feel the warmth of the stars’ gaze.

An overlook a few miles down the way seemed inviting and had no other visitors at the late hour. I grabbed a blanket out of my backseat, which was as cluttered with past, present, and future obligations as my mind. I curled up on a small mound of grass and looked up. I looked at the stars and they looked back. I asked them, out loud so they could really hear me, “How did I get here, in this exact point in my life?” They kept smiling at me, twinkling silently and without answer. “How can I back out of it? Can I back out of all of it?” Still refusing to acknowledge me with words or actions, the stars, both the bright ones and the dimmed ones, continued to view my shivering figure with an unwavering friendliness.

These are the most unsympathetic stars I have ever seen.

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