Overhead, a billion stars dotted the night like the light of God’s truth leaking through the strainer of a dark sky. I paused before getting into my car, not wanting to open the door, not wanting a flood of artificial light to spoil this natural ambiance and diminish the feeling of vastness in the dim shapes around me. Looking up. The stars. The black night holding them. The familiar feeling reminding me of the way we were always together under this kind of sky.
At first, it was on a freezing January night. Young, on a rooftop. I had never walked out of a window before or seen the streets and houses nearby from such an angle. That was his gift to me, then and now, of a surprising and unfamiliar perspective, so strange and thrilling and yet so comfortable. He wrapped my shivering up in a blanket and tucked it in around my knees and feet, preferring himself to stay out in the fresh cold air. I came to realize that his blood boils hotter than mine most of the time, which makes him far more able to endure the cold. And, he needs space, the space of fresh air moving around him.
Later, our nights under the stars were shared long distance, cell phones pressed so long and hard to sweaty ears they felt sore. Listening hard and deep to truths behind words too slurry for my liking. Beautiful words vibrating through space and into me, teaching me how to find the star he was looking at. If we could see the same star, at the same time, then the distance, the physical geographical distance between us would become obsolete. Roman soldiers, he said, would do this. They would choose a star with their wife before they went off to war and every night while they were apart, they both vowed to pause and gaze up at their star, knowing that their beloved was also doing the same, and in that moment they were together again in hearts and thoughts and souls. Not separate, but One.
He always fantasized about, or maybe reminisced about, being a Roman soldier, asking me to braid his hair, leaving one of his freshly worn shirts on my pillow before he went away so I could sleep wrapped in the smell of him for at least a few nights, until it needed washing, until the familiar musk of his warm, hairy skin faded and gave way to my own scent.
Roman soldiers, he said, always gave their woman jewels. Not just to decorate their beautiful bodies and to lie in contrast to the smooth soft skin of necks and fingers, but as protection. If that man didn’t come home, those jewels could be sold to provide for the very real needs of her survival – to buy food, shelter, necessities. A Roman soldier could die a brave death if he knew that the woman he cherished slept well and warm and safe, even if he were not there to tuck the blankets in around her knees and feet. Even if she slept in a shirt that smelled much too clean.
~ Darci Hawxhurst
for the Poplar Grove Muse