Our Favorite Star

Teenagers always think they know much more than they do, even if they do— really— know quite a lot.

The Field at Night
So I’m 18 and living in Chicago and I have maybe 5 friends. One of them, a boy I’ll call H, had a membership to the science center and planetarium that allowed him to bring along a friend for free, and sometimes if I guilt tripped him hard enough he’d drag me along for the day. We’d run around for hours. Staring at the whale hanging from the ceiling and the dinosaurs on display. We’d get lost in exhibits about ancient Egypt and spend ridiculous amounts of time reading placards about machines created half a century ago.

This was one of those weekends. It was early winter, when it gets dark much earlier than you think it will, even though the days get shorter every year just like this.  We had just left the planetarium and we were sitting on the grassy hill out in front. He was showing off— pointing out stars in the sky and telling me their stories; the myths and legends, the tales that people told. He was explaining one story, I don’t remember which it was, but about 30 seconds in we hear a man clear his throat behind us.

“That’s uh, not right” the man said. You could tell he felt kind of bad about it, but also that he couldn’t bear to let us be so ill informed.

“That’s not a star. That’s the tip of a cell-phone tower.”

As he said it, the light that H had told me was a star blinked red. I laughed so hard that I couldn’t breathe for nearly three minutes. I laughed until I was on the ground in tears.

Sometimes I still text H. If I’m walking home alone late at night and I see a cell phone tower glow. I say hi. I tell him to make a wish on our favorite star.

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