The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Second sighting

Rachael Conlin Levy

The next time I saw the star he was sleeping under the Aurora Bridge, where my youngest son and I had hiked to in order to visit the Fremont Troll, a hulking stone creature with eyes that gleamed like mercury and whose hand grasped a VW Bug. The belly of the bridge was filled with damp, shadowed concrete and the thunder of cars when I spotted the star, curled up under a heap of dirty blanket. A dim, tired light flickered around him, around us. Because he slept, I studied him openly. How old was he? When did he slip out of the sky? Why he was here, in this cloudy city that snuffed out starlight?

In a sunnier, drier city, I shared my weekly trash with a homeless man, who was a taller, thinner, younger version of the star. This man’s path through my neighborhood preceded the garbage truck’s by one day, which meant Tuesday mornings I’d look out my kitchen window and see him sifting through the cans lining the alley. I’d lift a hand and send a small smile his direction, and he’d return it before we’d turn back to our tasks — his search for aluminum cans and mine for the morning’s cup of coffee.

Every week this happened. Every week as days shortened and the sun’s heat lessened and the bitter darkness of the predawn frosted the yard with ice, he’d be there and so would I, with a single pane of glass dividing us. I never thought to offer him a cup of coffee until the Tuesday when he didn’t appear, like the way our closest star, Alpha Centauri, will one day slip out of our perspective and vanish. This large yellow star that is slowly brightening and moving across the sky, our sun’s older sister and inspiration for so many science fiction stories, will one day disappear from view. Forever. Many Tuesdays passed and I forgot this man like I forgot to search the ceiling of clouds for the faint stars that pierce the thick atmosphere. Then came the day I discovered the star inside the library, browsing in the nonfiction section, and a week later saw him again, sleeping in the quiet dirt, even as my son shouted and tossed pebbles off the troll’s shoulder. A few of them rolled to a stop near the star, who turned, shifted and slept on. Softly I called to my son to climb down and we walked away, leaving the star to burn alone.

4 responses to “Second sighting”

  1. anno says:

    There’s something very Calvino-like about this series, very mysterious. And the photos are a wonderful companion. Are there more to come?

  2. Rachael says:

    Thank you, Denise.

    Anno, I’m happy you like the mystery and my daughter’s images. As for what’s in store, that remains a mystery for me as well. In the meantime, I’ll put Calvino’s “If on a winter’s night a traveler” on hold at the library.

  3. Andrea says:

    Lovely…. I like, “When did he slip out of the sky?” and “I didn’t think of offering him a cup of coffee until the Tuesday he didn’t appear…”

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