Brighter Than Stars

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“I’m brighter than you stars!” New York City taunted, waving their walk signs, shaking their streetlights at Orion, the sole visible constellation that Fall night.

“Pfft,” said Rigel, Orion’s brightest star, “what are you, a hundred years old?”

“Shut up, I’m almost five!”

—-

Fwiw, Capella, Vega, Sirius, and Deneb were also visible over the City the night of the story. They’re each close enough to us to eavesdrop. And close enough to each other to gossip about us behind our backs. 

The moon, of course, has no choice but to hear our every word, always within earshot of our silliness.

Are we here, in the Milky Way, living in the suburbs? Or are we the Great Galactic City, and Capella’s our Great Neck?

On clear nights, Jupiter and Venus, and Saturn, on the darkest nights, also manage to pierce the city’s incandescent fluorescent din. 

New York City was terraformed; it’s an invention - a dream made real and gone wrong all at once. There’s no way to build it without erasing most stars. The night sky here acts as more of a ceiling. 

Here in NYC, there’s at-least cursory curiosity about the stars. There’s a real planetarium. And you just know there’s a radio telescope tucked away in some inaccessible corner of Staten Island, that some alien civilization, unable to secure a credit card, is using to steal Netflix for their planet.

Four or five years ago, my late neighbor, Ian, would take his then-middle school aged kids out on the block on clear-sky nights with a telescope, and stargaze together. The kids would call out stars, and passersby, now illuminated, would look up, strain to see, and take it on faith the telescope and the children were telling them the truth.

Most telescopes stay inside here, locked off at more horizontal angles in apartment windows, pointed (of course) at other apartments. Celestial habits are way less engaging (or scandalous) than the day-to-day adventures of neighbors you’ll only ever know from a distance, through a single window.

It’s just absurd to walk around at night, look up, and see, like, one star. Exhilarating and depressing all at once - once again, a dream made real and gone wrong. 

Whose dream, though? 

Who dreams a life under no stars?

“The City never sleeps.” Indeed , and now we know why. 

It’s afraid of the dark.