Light Pollution

“What is that pink light?” He asked, as I leaned back into his chest and took a drag of a cigarette. We were looking at the sky, waiting for shooting stars.  He put one hand around my waist and rested his large palm on my hipbone, while his other hand nuzzled the nape of my neck.  He did so absent-mindedly, an errant caress of his thumb flicked at the skin above my waistband. I rested my head under his chin and thought there was no reason to move, ever again.

I wanted him to be happy.  For years, I had thought about nothing more than ways I could possibly make him happier, strategies to reconfigure my life so that we could be more fluid and entwined. Two months prior, he had told me no amount of finagling could cure the fundamental differences between our two worlds, even if we longed to be enmeshed.  It has been impossible for me to accept that a hundred tiny and large nuances and separations in belief and lifestyle mean that there is a fundamental chasm that may be insurmountable.  It has taken even more time to understand that he is not willing or able to make the leap.

I looked to the sky, hoping for shooting stars upon which to wish for a way to extend a weekend into a lifetime.  But the annual Perseid meteor shower was blocked from view by thunderclouds and the intense brightness of a just past full moon.  The city was humid from the threat of monsoon rain and the heat of a desert summer was stuck in my throat along with every feeling I had ever felt about a man, so imperfectly perfect, I could do nothing but love him more.

Years ago, around this same time, we had taken a weekend trip, similar to this one, where in the middle of a dirt road, we had watched the harvest moon rise at dusk.  We had stopped fully on the side of a road to marvel at the brightness and wholeness of a moon so large, we were struck silent.  “We will always remember this moment,” I had said at that time.  I had kissed him then, so hard and so long I had thought that a kiss could extend for infinity.  On that day, I knew I loved him, but could not even begin to conceptualize how deeply.

“It’s not that I don’t want you, I do,” he had said with sincerity earlier in the day. “I want you, but I also know myself. I can’t give you what you deserve, the relationship you deserve. I can love you, but it wouldn’t be what you could have.  I can’t change and I can’t ask you just to take what I could give you when I know, you should have more.” He said it matter-of-factly, because it was a fact, not an opinion.  “You shouldn’t accept a lifestyle that isn’t comfortable for you because it’s comfortable for me.  I know what you’re worth and I know what you deserve.  I just can’t give it to you.”  He said it, and most parts of me longed for the days when he opted to give me false hope and faith.

“But I love you,”  I had said.

“I know,” he had replied.

Now, he removed the hand from my hair.  “Over there,” he pointed with long fingers.  “The sky there, why is it pink?”

“I think, ” I said with a small sigh. “I think it’s light pollution.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s when the light from the city reflects on the clouds and obscures the darkness of the sky.  It’s false light, in a way.”

“Huh,” he said into my hair. “I never knew that.”  I felt him smile.  “Why do you always know something I don’t know?”

I knew he belonged with me, in my soul, in my heart and head. I knew.  But it would never be right, unless he wanted it more than I did.  So many years of struggling to make him happy, and I couldn’t seem to digest the one true fact that would change our lives: I didn’t actually make him happy. Maybe my love had created its own light, maybe my heart had brightened a path that was only imaginary, a reflection of my own desire, a light from within that shone back to me from his chest. I breathed deeper and he tightened his hold against my chest.

As a girl, I’d watch the Perseid meteor shower every year from the darkness of small town with a city ordinance against street lights.  I took for granted the bleak darkness, the brightness of the stars, the common availability of meteor sightings.  I believed in the vastness of the Universe, I believed that every shooting star would grant me a wish.

Thunder struck, and the hot, deep flashes of lightning illuminated the horizon. It outlined every cloud in the sky.   I turned to face him, and he brushed tendrils of hair from my face as I looked at the man I would always love, in some way.

“Too many clouds, baby,” he said.  “I don’t think there will be any stars tonight.”  I stared with desperation at the sky, hoping against hope that one small space would clear to reveal flecks of glitter in the night.  He was right, though, there would be no magical meteor for me to wish upon.

In the morning, I would sob into his lap as he rubbed my back and stroked my hair.

“We’ll keep communication,” he promised. “I know it won’t be a relationship, but,” he said while looking at the ceiling. “But, it will be something.”  He knew it wasn’t enough. I sobbed more, in the uncontrollable way two-year olds have tantrums over brushing their teeth.  There was nothing left to say, there were no words to give me comfort, no reasoning that would be good enough to alleviate the heaviness of my heart. There was no back, and there would be no forward.

He held me, because there that was all there was to do.  He kissed the top of my head and wiped the tears that flowed in an endless fountain of could’ve beens and a future that was not mine anymore. I could not stop the love from exploding from my eyes.

And then, he was gone.