the short story project


Boris Roosevelt

Star Love

Do you remember this image I sent you a hundred times?


I used it to represent my feelings not just because it’s an explosion or because it looks cool. I chose it specifically because it’s a supernova (of a star labeled KSN2011d, 1.2 billion light-years away). I chose this because it reflects my beliefs about the knife-edge molecular balance upon which our lives depend. And how love helps us hold on to that balance.

There is entropy: the constant destruction and scattering of energy and heat. Stars help with this by crushing and exploding matter. Chemistry helps with this by releasing heat when we digest food. I wanted to tell you that I believe in another force that opposes entropy. It doesn’t have a name, and it is not recognized as part of nature by science, but I believe it exists. It is the tendency for atoms to gather into increasingly more complicated, self-propagating forms when the right conditions are met. But, in our universe, it can only win very rarely — only when stars explode like this.

This needs to happen so that we, living in the universe, the cosmos knowing itself — as Carl Sagan said — can evolve and live and know each other. Rather than one individual standing alone, gazing at the silent universe, perhaps a more potent way for the cosmos to know itself is for two beings to recognize and see and feel each other? A naive awareness examining the void, trying to understand it, finds another awareness just like it blinking back at it in the emptiness. What each seeks in the other is profound but elusive. And stellar death was required to make this meeting possible at all.

It was needed so I could see back in time to that death, starting with the colors of your eyes through an unbroken chain to the very beginning. Back through your mother and father and their mothers and fathers. And back through all the lives and all the deaths of all the ancestors that have existed to bring you into being and me into being in order to recognize your soul and perceive your soul-rending beauty. All of their suffering, loss, joy, wars, revolutions, famines, disease, births, deaths. Back through the entire labyrinth of endless human experience.

Back to ancestors’ ancestors to hairier and smaller (and then bigger and then smaller again) mammals, sitting in the trees, gazing at one another and trying to comprehend. Back to when they ran through the grass. Back to the oceans, before they walked on land. Back to swirling cities of amoeba when the oceans themselves were young. Back to their precursors and theirs — tiny vibrating viral machines powered by the light of a yellow star. Back to a molten, oceanless earth, contorting and folding in on itself, spewing fire, slowly cooling. Back billions of years before Earth, before its sun ignited and the planets around it swirled as silent dust in a stellar grave. Back when that grave was first made from the exploding, supercritical corpse of a gargantuan, red, roaring, cosmic powerhouse like KSN2011d. It died and shattered with incredible power to create all the stuff needed for life to eventually arise. All of this unimaginable complexity was necessary to bring you and me into existence to have that moment. So I could look into your cosmic eyes and my heart, too, could explode, detonated suddenly and blindingly by your unexpected kiss.

So you see, my love for you is rooted in the beauty of nature. It all feels connected and causal. My love for you is an expression of space and time and energy forcing themselves to wake up and feel joy. And in those first months, the sheer awe of this idea — the universe in your eyes reflecting the world they gaze upon — it overwhelmed me whenever you smiled, looked at me, or let yourself shine. And that is why I cried all those times.

I told you a little about this. Just small bits from around the edges, not quite fully formed. You did not ask me to elaborate, and I never did. But it was there from the start. And when you said accusingly that, if I cared for nature, I would have told you more of it, this whole universe — expansive, rich, full of the mystery and possibility of its own life — was crushed. Like a Big Crunch after a Big Bang, the eons that unwound in my imagination, seen through you, snapped back and coiled again into a point mass of agonizing, crushing pressure. It lodged into my heart and my mind, searing them.

How long will that potential remain? Maybe forever. Maybe not. Maybe with time, pressure and pain will stifle it, kill it, turn it into coal. Or, perhaps it can never be killed. But while it glows, burning me from the inside, all you need to do to reignite it is look at me. Reach out to it with your eyes, your words, or your feelings, and the universe can be born again.


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