OUTLAST THE STARS • by Kevin Shamel

I probably won’t write back to you, but please send an email now and then to let me know how you’re doing.

He read that sentence again and again, trying to make more of it than it was. Or lessen its sting.

It was all too familiar. It was their story. He’d written it that way.

He knew that stories never end. He knew that despite that, characters fall away.

Their story didn’t include much of the two of them together. Like stars divided by black space, their story was about them being apart.

As children, she shared classrooms with him, silently wishing him into the future. He ignored her as best he could. Their kindred intellect was both personally obvious, and public record, but he didn’t consider their similarities. He wanted people to love him, and she wanted people to leave her alone. She frightened him, not caring what her label might be.

Even then he knew he loved her.

When he went away to school, he did not think about her. And two years later, when his friend Ryan introduced her as his girlfriend, he did not recognize her. She hid behind her hair, but that’s not why.

They finished their last year of school together, once again sharing classrooms. They shared time away from school, too. She’d fallen in with his friends. She was one of them. He couldn’t escape her if he’d wanted to. And he didn’t.

He had been stripped of his labels at the military school that ate his past. He returned with the fiery need to be himself.

She loved him for that. More than she’d ever loved him before. But she’d loved him all along.

There is a moment that lives forever between them: She’d come and told him goodbye. They spent an hour not talking about the love that beat between them, drinking cold things and meeting each other’s eyes. He walked her to her car.

The air, the willow, the sidewalk, her heart and soul told him, Kiss her. Kiss her you fool. It will make all the difference in the world. It will bind you to her forever. It will make your life just right.

She waited.

She looked into him.

He couldn’t. He worried what she’d do.

The air chided him in lazy, warm currents as she drove away–holding a place for that kiss still.

It is a moment that broke worlds apart. A moment he hopes to find on the other side of time.

It taught him that destiny comes with difficulty. Especially once she told him she’d known it, too. That she’d waited for that kiss. That she understood its importance–whether it came to life or remained the eternal question between them.

She went to college in the Southeast. A very good school.

He moved to the Pacific Northwest to work for his dad.

They talked about their love when they were safely away from each other. When miles of earth and sky replaced the space between their eyes.

Blissfully, they loved each other from afar–dismissing their insurmountable differences. Ignoring the blatant fact of their diverging paths.

He told her in long, heart-wrenching letters how he’d loved her always. He damned the year they’d spent as friends–her all mixed up with Ryan, he with the wrong person, too.

He swore his love for her would outlast the stars. He admitted that the poems were all hers. That she was the muse, and the goddess, the temple, the wildflower, heart-stopper–the absolute. He told her everything.

She called him, and told him she’d smoked pot, and that he wasn’t such a bad boy for doing it all those years, and that she could forgive him his wild ways. She said that college was opening her up to a lot of what he’d subtly tried to before. He told her that he missed her. She missed him, too.

There is a song that is years long laid out between them–languid or hurried phone calls, letters stashed in boxes, burned in rituals, buried in secret places. It is plaintive, and seductive, and it hurts his chest when he listens to it sung.

She called him, and she told him she’d met someone.

He read her letters with fists. He scrawled his loss in terrified words–some which still haunt him, some which still haunt her.

He wrote to her after it was no longer too painful, across years and states. He told her things about what he missed. About what he was doing. About why.

And sometimes she wrote back.

He would read about how different from each other they’d become and thrill at what they could be together. He’d lament, and spend the day throwing rocks into the quietest pools of water he could find. He thought of the moonstone she’d given him.

Many times at night, when he began to dream, he thought of what they would make together, knowing they never would.

And the stars stretched out.

They wore lines in his face, and wove his path around the wilderness.

They took her to the places she’d longed to see, and put her exactly where she needed to be.

The stars rearranged themselves, and each of them found their ways.

He let the fire of their love come to a point. He let it burn itself down into a diamond in his heart, and he stopped his longing.

She quelled hers, too.

And after their spiraling paths had put them very near each other, neither of them dared to see one another.

He wrote to her, finally, after learning her new last name. He told her what was becoming of his life, about his kids, and his lovely wife. She wrote back many similar things.

And she said, I probably won’t write back to you, but please send an email now and then to let me know how you’re doing.

The stars shone on.

Now and then Kevin Shamel is inspired by some romantic bit of real life. He hopes that stories like this are familiar to people. They feel that way to him.

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