I remember sitting on my dad’s lap and looking up at the stars. We wrapped ourselves in a pink fleece blanket with a floral design that my second cousin had made for me. I don’t remember ever meeting her, but the blanket became such an important talisman of my life it almost feels like I know her.
My dad and I did this what felt like every night. We’d bundle up in jackets and hats in the winter or wear shorts in the summer—but we always had the blanket. He didn’t name constellations or anything like that; I doubt he knew a single one besides maybe the big dipper on a good night. But instead, we’d just look up at the stars, finding designs and creating stories. “That one looks like a polar bear,” I’d say. It certainly didn’t, but my dad would enthusiastically agree and say, “and there is the polar bear’s cave over there!”
I don’t know for how many years we did this. Maybe one, maybe ten, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I don’t know why we stopped. Maybe I thought I got too cool to sit on my dad’s lap and look up at the stars.
I don’t remember when I stopped seeing stars. Maybe it was when I was in 5th grade and we went on a Girl Scout Camping trip. I remember tripping over roots in the dark and running smack into a tree, but I don’t remember if I saw the stars or not. I remember being at Lake Superior with my gymnastic team in Freshman year of high school and looking up at the sky. I couldn’t see the stars my teammates gazed at with wonder. We were all city kids who had never seen stars that bright before. I remember going into the tent and crying because I couldn’t see what they could.
A year later, when I got my diagnosis, I began to understand why I could no longer look up into the sky and see the shining speckles. When I met someone else with RP who told me they couldn’t see the stars either, I sobbed—so happy and so sad that we weren’t alone in this beautiful image being taken from us.
My second year of college, my boyfriend, a friend and I were walking home. They noticed the stars, looking up at them in awe. In rural Iowa, no pollution or city lights blocked the stars from their perfect vision, but I didn’t even bother looking up.
I was scared. What if I couldn’t see them? I would just be more and more angry and sad, at myself and at them for their sight. My boyfriend, noticing that I hadn’t even looked up, gently took my arm and pointed up at a bright star. My hands followed where his arm pointed, guiding my eyes to where I should look. Nothing. I pulled away, angry at them and stupid eyes. “Just keep searching,” my boyfriend said gently. So I did, just to appease them. Trying to hide my frustration, I used his arm as a guide again, feeling with my hands where he was pointing, trying to get my eyes to follow. Hopelessness descended on me as the inky black sky revealed nothing, but then—
“I see it!” I screamed, jumping up and down in excitement. “I see it I see it I see it!”
They jumped and hollered in joy with me, and light filled my heart. When I finally looked away, I knew it was the last time I’d ever see the stars. My vision was going fast, but in that moment I didn’t care: I had this wonderful moment with two people that I loved and I would never forget it. Even if this was the last time I saw the stars, I knew I would be okay.
About the Author
Maya Larson is a college student at Grinnell College in Iowa studying Anthropology and French. A lifelong informal writer, this is her first published piece with Wordgathering. She enjoys writing science fiction, short stories, and about the daily lived experience of being disabled.