After This, Will I Fly Too?

Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
Image of Short Fiction
The planetarium is closed for good.

Merciless black letters splayed across the sign up front, the yellow banner blocking Saturn’s dancing rings in more ways than one.

They only dance in my dreams now.

(I tell her this in between bites of chocolate croissants.)

And they are there, relentless, every night--nebulas and ghosts of stars. Wisps of knowledge that drift away from me at dawn. I am a perpetual knowledge-seeker, so I am no stranger to those doors being closed without warning.

I feel as though my wings have been clipped.

(She laughs at this, makes a bird with her hands. Says “those wings were borrowed anyway.”)

It is cruel.

(She is not cruel. She is right.)

It is hard to always believe in what’s temporary. Joking about soulmates like everyone past isn’t gone. To love only to be left.

(She takes my hand and leads me outside the cafe.)

I want to love something ancient, like stars. Something that doesn’t leave quietly without a sign, but with an explosion, with memories, with remainders of existence scattered across the universe.

I want to be there in their minds, a regret or an old love. As long as they are thinking of me.

(“You are always looking in the wrong places,” says she. Coils of dark hair frame her face and I can’t help staring at the painting in between.)

(She looks at me like I am a galaxy to explore.)

I am so tired of what is short-term. My bones are tired--hollow bones, like birds’. Grounded too long.

(“Look up,” she says. I do.)

The night unfolds before me. Ancient, bright points burning light years away.

The planetarium is closed for good, its only permanence in death. The way a lot of things are.
But I think the sky will remain open before me for as long as I’m alive.

(I look back at her. She glances back at me. Smiles. Leaves.)

It is quiet, but I see her in every star.