The Place Where the Stars Have Gone24 March 2020
He tells you to meet him on level six of that car park tucked behind the shops. There must be nowhere else to park at this time of night. You don’t realise it’s the rooftop. Standing in an empty car park can elicit feelings of anxiety in you because of the low ceilings, chorus of echoes and strange noises. But standing on the highest level, where the sound disappears into the night and the only people around are six storeys below, your fear doesn’t exist. Without a ceiling or walls, you have a 360-degree view of the land and the sky. The high-rise apartments aren’t as immense as they seem.
The orange lights of the streets roll on into the distance, fading into specks upon the ground. He hasn’t texted you back.
Are you here yet? Where are you? Heeelllloooo???
Bored with staring at your phone, you wander around the car park.
You walk along the perimeter, looking down every so often before flinching when the vertigo hits. Once you do a few laps you check the time. He still hasn’t replied. You text him again. You don’t end up checking the time.
You turn your attention to the sky. It’s not how you remember it. Isn’t it meant to be black? Now it’s grey, a warm grey like smoke. Clouds are still visible even though it’s getting close to midnight. Where are the stars? There are always stars in the night sky. Always. Always? You can’t remember the last time you looked up at the sky but there were definitely twinkling stars. Flickering, little lights to decorate the darkness. Not smog. Never smog.
Maybe if you went out to the country you might see the stars again but you’re twenty minutes from the Dandenongs. There must be stars here. The stars have always been here.
You have always stayed in the same place but your place hasn’t stayed the same. There are new people with newer bigger houses, apartment buildings and high-rise car parks littered all over. The world is growing without you. They are pushing the stars out of the sky while you wait at the bottom, unaware that they’re being stamped out, suffocating in the smog. It isn’t until tonight that you see the vacancy in the sky. Tonight is the first night in years you have remembered the stars. You couldn’t have been that close to them. You would have said goodbye.
You feel that absence now. You feel the space where they should be.
You know that these people won’t stop pushing the stars out of the sky. Midnight is no longer that dark blue-to-black sky with a glowing moon, but rather a grey muddied with orange. You will have to idealise the smog now. Romanticise yourself lying under the smog sky with him in your arms. How he looks in that orange glow, not the moonlight.
The only lights left are those sprawled across the horizon, illuminating roads and houses. The stars of the land. But they are not stars, they are too geometric, too orange, too much like the smog. They don’t remind you of home, or the late-night barbecues, or the games with friends lying on the trampoline seeing who could spot the Southern Cross and The Big Dipper first. Those orange lights don’t form any patterns, they are laid out too neatly. We can’t project our heroes and myths onto them. Real stars are beyond us.
You have lost the stars. You have to settle for that orange smog. You have to forget about them as your city climbs higher and higher. What are they trying to reach if not the stars?
You hope that they’re still behind that smog. Still shimmering even though you can’t see them. But you’ll never know.
You check the time.
He’s not coming.
You’re not waiting for him.