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Make a wish

My wife and I were sipping summer drinks on our back porch tonight—whiskey sours, or pink lemonade and gin. I was watching the stars fight with the streetlight at the corner. I moved to a spot where a hemlock near our porch eclipses the light. The stars won. A steady golden dot swam silently across the sky, southeast to northwest. It was gone in a minute. A satellite.

“We used to sleep out and watch the stars,” I told Sherry. “Just unroll our sleeping bags on the ground and go to sleep.” These details signaled to Sherry that one, the word “we” didn’t include her, because camping out to her means staying in a hotel, and two, I was telling a story from many years ago. The summer after eighth grade, it was. I’m too old now to sleep anywhere but inside, to sleep on anything but a mattress.

Back then, a loose group of us would sleep under the stars on any given clear night. Usually we’d scrape up enough money beforehand to buy cans of Coca-Cola. We drank Coca-Cola from cans because we once saw a photograph of Graham Hill, the very picture of a dashing British racecar driver, sipping a can of Coke.

We were camping in this impromptu way because none of us was—I don’t know, hip enough, cool enough—no, let’s be truthful: gutsy enough to ask a girl out on a date. Instead, we slept on the lumpy ground with mosquitoes whining in our ears until the fog lulled us to sleep. Instead, we talked about the girls we would like to date, if only we had the nerve to ask them or the money to afford to take them out. One night, three or four of us were sleeping in my backyard, talking about all the pretty girls in our class. It was a perfectly G-rated conversation, but despite that, my father, who was sleeping in a bedroom with the window open at the front of the house, called out, “Patrick, I can hear every word you guys are saying.” It didn’t matter. We were 14 years old on the calendar, but if we were thinking that way about girls, we weren’t admitting it to each other.

I thought about those days tonight as I watched the satellite track a swift line. The sky is unchanged these many years later. The stars remain arranged the same. Airplanes blink and crawl between stars. Vega shines steady white at the zenith. The Big Dipper pours summer over all of us.

Those girls my friends and I talked about all those nights? We never got any closer to them than we did to the moon. Back then, those failures were how we measured ourselves in the social strata of high school. They were how our classmates measured us too. Tonight, under the unchanging constellations, I remember those nights, when I would watch for a shooting star so I could make a wish.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 7th, 2012 01:33 pm (UTC)
You have a gift. Touchingly written - beautiful.
Jul. 7th, 2012 01:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much.
Jul. 7th, 2012 07:29 pm (UTC)
What sahlah said - stunning. You're on quite a roll here.
Jul. 8th, 2012 01:48 am (UTC)
Thanks, Jamie. Just noodlin'.
Jul. 9th, 2012 02:06 am (UTC)
Damn. That's about all I can say.
Jul. 9th, 2012 02:11 am (UTC)
Thanks for the read and especially for the "damn," Lizz.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

March 2017

Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”


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