A Kind of Melancholy

April 10, 2007 at 10:46 pm Leave a comment

Hey, everyone. Today’s post is a (highly modified) rendition of the story I told at the first Excellence League meeting I attended. As you may recall, it was impromptu. I’ve been meaning to write it out since then, and for some reason tonight just felt… right. I’m really not all that happy with the results, though. In any case, here it is.


When I was younger I loved to look at the stars. We lived out in the country, and the views were spectacular. To me the stars were at once both reassuring and magical, the only points of reference in the long and ominous night. In the presence of dark, they shone on. In an endlessly shifting landscape, they provided the only constant. They were mysterious, beautiful, infinite. No matter what was wrong, just looking at them made me feel better.

One winter night my father took us to the local school, where amateur stargazers had gathered to view the planets and constellations. They explained everything to us, where things were and what they meant, but I couldn’t find anything they talked about. I remember being frustrated, and proclaiming the evening a failure. I even tried to storm off. But just as I was about to leave I slipped on a patch of ice and fell flat on my back. When I opened my eyes, I found myself staring straight up at the Big Dipper.

For the first time in my life, I felt like I understood the world.


I’m going to tell you the saddest stories I know. Late one night in the 1990’s there was an earthquake in Los Angeles, as is wont to happen there. Residents poured out of their homes and into the streets, hoping to avoid collapse and falling debris. At the exact same time the earthquake knocked out the local power-grid, shutting off all the lights in the city.

Now, as anyone who’s ever lived in a city knows, the lights are never off. The street-lamps stretch on forever in every direction, casting out their weak pools of light. Everything you see ends up swathed in a pale, orange glow, a glow that hangs thick in the air and blocks out the skies. It’s a cold, unfeeling light, almost no better than the dark it’s meant to keep out.

On this night those lights went off, and took with them the orange blanket they had wrapped the city in. Thousands of people standing outside of their homes looked up, and for the first time in their lives they saw the stars.

For the next two weeks, the local observatory was overwhelmed with calls asking what those strange lights in the sky were.


It’s been a long time since I lived in the country. City life isn’t all that bad, I suppose; there’s always places to go and things to do. You even get used to the street-lights after a while. Though the glow is oppressive it keeps away worse things, those dark terrors and secrets a city always seems to breed.

Still, I was relieved when I found out I’d have a chance to be in countryside again, even if only for a little while. It would be like coming home. I’d look up and night, the stars would look down on me, and for just a few minutes everything would be like it was when I was young. Maybe, just once more, I could get a glimpse into the infinite. Maybe I could understand.

Last night I looked up at the sky. I couldn’t see anything.

Editor’s Note: This is lamesauce. Can we pretend it never happened?


Entry filed under: essay. Tags: , .

What? No Title? Here’s me Moping

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