As a teenager, I would spend many nights lying on the tiny balcony in our house, gazing steadily up at the stars. I was confident that I’d be great at making a home among them. It would remind me of Van Gogh’s masterpiece. Life as I knew it would recede into the distance – an afterthought to the beauty of the night which consumed me. I often felt like I was dissolving into a thick cosmic drink. Like Van Gogh, I believed that my only freedom lay among the stars, far away from Earthly life. Only, Van Gogh thought he needed death to travel across these worlds. I was sure that all I really needed was a decent spaceship.
I’ve been roaming the galaxies for several months now, untethered to a single person, place, or thing. Even my thoughts float freely here, and my senses remain unbothered by the commotion of life on Earth, taking in only the wonders of space. Today, I gaze out the window of my spacescooter, my eyes glued to the glass, my hands cupping my field of vision to avoid my own reflection against the darkness of the void. My keenness is rewarded as I happen to witness the death of a star. From what I can tell, it’s a relatively small one; but like all the others of its kind, it likely lived a very long life. Now it goes out, throbbing in purple and blue light – an almost operatic self-destruction.
Lying in my balcony, I knew that all stars are destined to die, that they eventually run out of energy, until all that’s left is a white hot nucleus encased in wispy hollow light, fading slowly away. I knew that stars are ticking time bombs, never truly free of the nature of their being. Even after they’ve faded into nothing, they continue to haunt the void. The matter they leave behind evolves into planets, organisms, or more stars; their molecules of non-freedom are recycled continuously in the infinite expansion of the universe. Sometimes, if the star is big enough, its collapse consumes its surroundings. Once brilliant and admirable, it morphs into a black hole; and then nothing can escape it. I knew all of this, my books had taught me well. Yet, desperate to take off and be free, I could only see the stars as untethered orbs, ideals of might and liberty, more significant than we could ever dream of being.
Now this ideal dies before me. I pull away from the window of my spacescooter, the sole attendant to this star’s dying light. My reflection reappears in the glass, mingling strangely with the purple aura beyond. It seems the stars themselves, reconstructions of the same matter hanging on to the past and future, cannot be free. What about me, then? I am reconstructed star matter, with non-free molecules bustling inside me; a tiny piece in the vast assemblage of humanity across time and space; a single specimen of a self-destructive species – even thousands of kilometres away from Earth, how untethered, how Aazaad can I really be? Staring out at the cosmos, I place myself once again in the starry night. Perhaps there isn’t absolute freedom in my stars, after all. I wonder whether Van Gogh found it in his.
This piece has been written by Farishta Anjirbag. She will be writing for the network for a brief period before moving onward and upward. We are proud to host her large ideas and clever writing.
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