The Stars that Shine for Us
As every citizen passed by on the messy streets of Italy, Lorenzo stood in the crowd. Drowning in a sea of people yet still feeling like an outcast. The sun gleamed on the soothing waves offshore, the shine reflecting on the streets. Each individual crossed the streets to continue working to get through life because that was one’s purpose. Study, work, and die. But Lorenzo couldn’t quite grasp the concept. How could life be so tedious? There has to be something more. Even in Italy, where everyone was unique, all seemed to have the same purpose.
He found it so hard to handle the reality that his youth would no longer live on. Life as a child was a dream that he never wanted to wake up from. Though desires weren’t always fulfilled, a child lived to the fullest running around the fields or playing in the gardens and had the time to do whatever. But it all ended once coming of age arrived, when duties and responsibilities took over and determined what Lorenzo’s life would be like.
“Out of the way, figlio!” warned the man on his wagon as his horses carried across the road.
With an effortless shift of his feet, Lorenzo moved aside as the wagon rode past and blew a gust of wind through his hair. His mind shifted back to the real world in front of him. This is the dreadful world I live in, he sighed as he stared at the sun setting behind the blue ocean. Salt lingered in the air, and he breathed it in deeply, closing his eyes. In these moments he found life to be okay. The peacefulness of natural beauty eased his body. But Lorenzo eventually opened his eyes and found himself standing in front of his home, ready to go rest and repeat the same day tomorrow. As he was walking toward the wooden door of his cottage, he saw someone standing in his flower garden.
As he crept closer to the garden, he noticed a slim figure with short, wavy auburn hair admiring his bed of cosmos that had bloomed a week ago. The person stood there for the longest moment, smiling down at the purple and yellow flowers.
“Pardon to interrupt, but you seem to be entertaining yourself with my cosmos,” Lorenzo said with a smile but a hint of unpleasantness in his tone. Though irritated that his personal belongings were being viewed without permission, he was a polite man. He meant to present himself as stern and polite. I hope he doesn’t touch them.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I just saw them on my way to the village, and they’re just too precious not to admire.”
“It’s all right,” Lorenzo replied. “I really don’t mind. It’s just alarming that there’s a stranger in my garden.”
“Oh, I am terribly, terribly sorry.” The stranger looked down at the cosmos one final time with a sigh. “I just admire the sight of this garden, it brings me back to my childhood.”
Lorenzo perked up his head. At last, someone who remembers life as a child. “Of course, it’s no problem. This garden is for everyone,” he smiled warmly.
The man walked gracefully out of the flower bed and back onto the path to the village. “Well, in that case, you will see me promptly. Arrivederci!” He waved at Lorenzo with a smile and turned toward the path.
“Arriverderci,” Lorenzo whispered back.
Spying him from a distance, Lorenzo saw the figure disappear down the road. That’s something new. He smiled at himself, standing shocked on his front porch.
Dusk was arriving soon, and he still had to prepare supper for himself. Pots and utensils clinked against each other as Lorenzo cooked fish with a few vegetables. “Guarda quanto è inutile,” he started speaking to himself as he stared around his whole kitchen, eyeing his belongings. “The money I work for, just to be spent on things I need to survive. Yet I still struggle to live.”
He sat down in his chair with a heave. Stared at his hands then the floor. Then his hands again. Unconsciously, he got up, grabbed his paper and pencil, and sat back down at the table. Lorenzo’s hands grazed over the piece of paper with such elegance. Not even knowing what he would draw, he released his feelings, thoughts, and self onto items made of trees. This truly satisfied him. The simplicity allowed him to express himself with no judgment or hate.
While the whole world, including himself, ate him alive with criticism, there were still moments he lived for. Where it was just him, Lorenzo, and the things he loved. Love. It’s something magical that occurs in everyone’s dreams. But does it exist in reality? No, it’s just pain. An illusion of what could’ve been. That thought concluded Lorenzo’s evening as he peacefully slept, head resting on the table and arms dangling as his pencil released from his grip. But, oh, how Lorenzo dreaded to wake up.
Lorenzo kept seeing the same man admire his cosmos in the following days. Though sometimes the man wouldn’t come, Lorenzo knew the next day he would. Lorenzo found out he was called Alexander.
“You know, I’ve never realized how beautiful everything is.” Alexander sighed as he held a petal of a fallen cosmo. “Even death carries its own beauty.”
“I suppose you could put it that way. But that’s your opinion, not mine.”
“You don’t see the beauty? Lorenzo, how could you not, it’s right in front of you. Everything from life to nature.”
“How could such a repetitive, cruel life be beautiful?”
“Even cruelty has its beauty, you know,” Alexander said. “But aside from that, life doesn’t always have to be the same. There’s so much out in the world you still haven’t experienced.”
Lorenzo cocked his head to the right, eyeing Alexander crouched, his auburn hair trimmed to just barely reach his eyes as his olive skin gleamed against the sun. Perhaps there is something out there.
Eventually, Alexander’s presence synced with Lorenzo’s daily routines. He felt excited when Alexander was there. Even if they didn’t speak, he felt giddy to be acknowledged. Lorenzo loved to end the day and make it the next just to see Alexander, though it was barely twelve in the afternoon. But these moments lasted for such little time, and the day would soon again repeat itself in its awful, hazy ways.
One warm cloudy day, Lorenzo brought out his paintbrushes, paints, and canvas to paint this lovely gloomy day. Nearby he could hear the crunching of rocks and the sliding of sandals against the rocky path to his home. Without turning around he continued to paint his cosmos and the clouds.
“I see you’ve entertained yourself today,” commented Alexander as he circled Lorenzo, eyeing the way Lorenzo lifted the brush from his palette and applied his strokes on the canvas. “It’s quite a tragic day though, don’t you think?”
“That’s what makes it so worthy. The emotion is written all over the sky.”
“I suppose you have a point.” Alexander wandered into the garden.
Lorenzo began to incorporate Alexander into his painting with the sweetest colors he could make. It was nearing midday when he’d almost completed the painting.
“Let’s go out,” Alexander abruptly offered as he stared at the hills.
“And where exactly would we go?”
“There’s so much to do in Italy, where could we possibly not go?” With that, Alexander started walking toward the path to the village.
Lorenzo began to doubt. I really don’t want to go, but I’d hate to say no to him.
Alexander paused and turned to face him. “Time is running out. Are you coming or not?” he asked with gentleness.
Lorenzo audibly exhaled, shook his head in disapproval, and looked down to the ground. “Si, I’m coming.”
The two walked to the village that Lorenzo despised visiting except to get groceries. They went straight into the market.
“Mele! Albicocche! Arance!” yelled a vendor with a fresh fruit stand. They stopped to check out the variety of goods, from fruits to furs, along the way. Unlike other times in the past five year, Lorenzo actually quite enjoyed this odd trip to the market. Lorenzo ended up buying fruits and new sandals for himself, and Alexander bought a book from a small, isolated stand in the corner.
“What did you decide on?” Lorenzo asked as he pointed his head toward the book in Alexander’s hand.
“It’s a philosophical book, Plato’s Five Dialogues.”
“Have you read it before?”
“Yes, it’s quite a book,” Alexander said. “It teaches us that our knowledge is only gathered when it’s explained by our true beliefs.”
Lorenzo gives him a questionable look. “And what do you believe?”
“Life is a journey where we learn from our mistakes and get to live off them. That is where our true knowledge comes from. Our mistakes.”
Lorenzo had made many mistakes in life, but he still found himself in the same place each time. He felt his journey had not yet begun. “Do you believe your journey has started?” The words slip out of his mouth. Lorenzo just needed to know he was not the only one left behind.
“Of course. Well, it’s not been an exciting journey, but yes, I believe so.” Alexander smiled at Lorenzo as he looked him in the eye.
The sun was about to set and dusk about to rise. The two had finished their visit to the market and headed up the hill to Lorenzo’s cottage.
As he was about to say farewell, Alexander blurted, “Do you believe you’ve begun your journey, Lorenzo?”
“No. I don’t believe I have, Alexander.”
“What makes you say that? Your life is so amusing, filled with color that everyone can see aside from you.”
“I don’t think you understand,” Lorenzo said. “Life is a curse. But I somehow manage to go through each day without giving in. Yet everyone else sees me as living a dream.” He stared at his front door then glanced up one more time to look Alexander straight in the eye. “I’m just so tired, tired of trying so hard to live a life I never wanted. Tired of being perceived as the giddy person everyone believes me to be. Tired of seeing everything I’ve ever loved move on as I stay trapped in this cell with no key.”
A silent whimper pierced the air. Lorenzo’s tears dripped down his face to the gray cold stone steps on his front porch, wetting the moss growing inside the stones.
A strong force pulled Lorenzo in, with warmth enveloping him. Alexander held Lorenzo in his arms, not in sympathy but wanting him to feel the way he never has. Wanted.
The moon rose, gleaming on the ocean as its reflection wavered in the ripples of the water. In the hills Lorenzo lay on the grass with Alexander by his side, staring at the stars that held a special place in their hearts. Orion shimmered through the night sky with his club held tight in his hands. His belt shone the whole night.
“Do you believe there’s a higher power or divine or whatever?” Alexander asked as he pointed out Ursa Major.
“I don’t know. I’m always doubting what to believe. If there really was one, why have I lived my life like this? What did I do to deserve this agony? But in the end, I realize.” Lorenzo paused and turned his head to the side to face Alexander. “This is all my doing, I chose my path to be this lonely. Though I hate to admit it, it’s true,” he said with a hint of sorrow.
“You don’t have to be alone anymore.”
Lorenzo replied, “I know, and I realize that now with you.”
Alexander’s lip twitched and a small smile crept up as his dimples began to form. He recited an old saying, “I was once told that a star can illuminate the world but a handful can enliven the whole galaxy.”
Lorenzo entwined his fingers with Alexander’s. They both returned to admiring the stars that shone a future they could not see. They spent the night entranced in each other’s love and warmth.
Lorenzo spent the following days searching for Alexander. There was an absence that couldn’t be filled. No one admired his cosmos, no one for conversation. He went to the market, but none recognized Alexander’s description. So Lorenzo ventured to the small stand where Alexander bought his book. But it was empty, abandoned a while ago with only a box of tattered old books, including a copy of Plato’s Five Dialogues. On the top of the box. He began to walk to the trail that led home.
He wouldn’t just leave. It’s not like him, he would never leave me. Lorenzo got home as soon as night fell. By the corner of his garden, he spotted Alexander once again admiring his cosmos.
“Where have you been?” Lorenzo questioned nonchalantly, as he didn’t want to sound angry or disappointed at Alexander’s abrupt appearance.
“I had to leave.Please forgive me, Lorenzo. But I came to speak to you.”
He’s frightened. This isn’t going to end okay. “Did something occur?”
“No. It’s just you have to understand something. I’m leaving.”
How could he possibly leave? He’d been through this plenty of times. But this time affected him differently. He felt betrayed as if he’d been stabbed in the stomach. Please don’t leave me. Take me with you. But he hated to plead. He didn’t hold people back. Lorenzo kept his tone cool. “What do you mean by leaving?”
“It means you have to move on with your life, Lorenzo,” Alexander snapped as he switched his gaze to the trees ahead.
“Why?” Why does he have to be just like the others? Why does he have to become the one person I truly care about?
“I really don’t want to, you have to believe me. I love being here, with you. Love the sensation of being in our little world where only we exist.” Alexander wrapped his hands around Lorenzo’s arms. “But you need to move on. I’ve helped you, and I believe you can do it without me.”
“Take me with you then.” Lorenzo gave him a determined look. He wasn’t letting him go just like that.
“You don’t understand. I have to go.” The words came out painfully. Alexander dreaded every bit of it, but he could no longer hide the truth.
“No, y-you can’t,” Lorenzo sobbed as he stared at the empty hearth. “You won’t leave me,” the cry came out. His face scrunched with such disappointment and sadness. He let out a silent scream with every bit of emotion exploding within him. His calloused hands wrapped around Alexander’s neck as he threw himself onto him. Resisting the urge to hold Lorenzo in his arms, Alexander stood motionless like a doll.
“I face every day in this world with pure criticism and have lived in futility,” Lorenzo muffled into Alexander’s shoulder. “You showed up though. And ended all of it. Please,” he looked up into Alexander’s soft honey eyes. “Don’t go,” he pleaded, putting his fingers through his.
“I —” Alexander didn’t finish. There was no excuse anymore. “Sit,” he demanded Lorenzo to the ground next to the flowerbed. High above once again were the constellations shining for the two below, guiding them to their next step. “I’m not really here Lorenzo. I never was.”
“I don’t understand. You’re right next to me. What is there to prove you’re not really here?”
“This,” Alexander took in the whole front yard with his hands. “This is just a fiction of your mind. You created me, Lorenzo. But for a good reason.” Alexander reached out to hold his hand, but Lorenzo flinched as he stayed numb but held his astonishment for later.
“This isn’t possible. I see you, feel you, touch you. You’re lying.”
“It’s all in your head, but whatever you felt was real, and I believe that this has sparked your beginning.” Alexander reached out one more time to calm Lorenzo down.
“This isn’t happening,” Lorenzo said as tears dripped down onto the soil, wetting Alexander’s hand.
Alexander cradled Lorenzo as he began to feel the heaving of his chest.
“We were just admiring the stars as we laid in the grass, enjoying the silence and darkness of the night. We spoke our hearts out to each other,” Lorenzo whispered.
Their foreheads collided and the ignited heat built inside Lorenzo. Alexander slowly placed his face in the nape of Lorenzo’s neck, and his unsteady breath tickled.
“When I leave I’ll tell the stars about you.” Alexander pulled away from Lorenzo’s arms and gave him a forced smile with a squeeze to his hand.
Lorenzo couldn’t bear to look him in the eyes but just gave out a small laugh.
“Look at me, please.”
With burning red eyes and dry cheeks, Lorenzo fixed his gaze on Alexander. “I’ve met many people throughout my life, but no one has ever made it as glorious except for you and the moments we shared. Which is why I am desperate. For once in my life, I was able to live and experience life, but with you by my side.” Lorenzo stammered that final sentence.
“And it will continue to be glorious. I’ll always be in your memories, I won’t go anywhere. We’ve created many galaxies, so remember that I’ll always be in the sky enlivening it.”
No more tears would be shed. Side by side, hand in hand, the night carried on. The final time Alexander would be in the grass with Lorenzo came to an end as soon as dawn rose.
This is how Alexander left. Not because he disappeared but because of that feeling of when you finally have to leave such a great moment that you wish never ended. That’s what overcame them.
Lorenzo woke up in isolation. He turned to his side hoping to see Alexander but knowing there was no one. Just a tiny part of him believed Alexander wouldn’t leave. But it was time he carried on. Alexander was right. Lorenzo’s eyes had been opened to a whole new world he was ready to explore. Whether he’d be alone, he knew at night the stars above would guide him and the cosmos he’d encounter would remind him of the moment he’d begun his journey.
Alessandra Pimentel is a fourteen-year-old who’s always been passionate about literature. As a child she checked out books from the libraries at school and even won an award for reading the most books. She discovered poetry in the sixth grade after creating a poem for a contest in her English class, which was published in the book Illustrious. She pursues writing as a hobby.