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Ceiling Starlight

By: Harper Wood

Published for the 2023 Spring Magazine


There are still stars that retain their faint glow from where I stuck them on the
ceiling of my childhood bedroom. When I was nine, I begged you for a bunk bed
even though I didn’t have a twin to share the room with. Now, my heels press
flat against the foot of the bed, and I can feel the springs shifting against my
spine from beneath the threadbare mattress quilt.

This room looks empty from up here; all of my belongings are shoved into the
bare bottom bunk to keep you from sitting on the mattress and asking me how
I’m doing. I know from the years of you being my mother that your gentle first
question is only a precursor to the answers you seek and the truth you will even-
tually yank out from the cavity of my chest.

I lied when I asked you to come and pick me up because my car wouldn’t start.
My empty wallet and gas tank and eviction notice in my bag tell the truths
that I wish would stay as far from your ears as possible. But these stars are not
the wishing kind. No matter how many nights I spent trying to will the glossy
shapes into more than simple colors, they are still nothing more than a fast-fad-
ing dream.

The stars burn so bright it sears my retinas behind closed eyelids. After fifteen
years, their glow persists, as long as I do not think about how time has marched
on far past dawn. Pressing my hand flat against the ceiling does nothing to stop
the glow, but I keep my eyelids closed to delay you a little longer.

I know that you are waiting for me in the kitchen with two mugs of tea. The bags
of earl gray will have steeped too long,
and no amount of honey will save those
drinks from the persistent bitterness. Sitting at the table, where I have only ever
had the worst conversations with you, I will take a snapshot memory to replay at
another one of my lowest moments.

Return to the 2023 Spring Magazine

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