Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene Read Online (FREE)
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To get back up to the shining world from there
My guide and I went into that hidden tunnel;
And following its path, we took no care
To rest, but climbed: he first, then I—so far,
Through a round aperture I saw appear
Some of the beautiful things that Heaven bears,
Where we came forth, and once more saw the stars.
—Dante Alighieri, Inferno
HOW SHOULD WE START, SWEETIE? Maybe with one of the silly games we invented together. They meant nothing to anyone else, but everything to us. There was the time we pretended, for half an hour, that the ramp outside of a building was an elevator. You would press your finger to a brick; I would make a beeping noise. I would say “Going down!” and you would run down the ramp, laughing. That was the whole game. It was enough.
Or: We’re on the beach. You are two years old. You saw the beach once before, when you were fourteen months; you did not enjoy it. The sun on your skin felt invasive (you shared your mother’s aversion to direct sunlight). The sand moving beneath your feet and hands fascinated you at first but quickly unnerved you; the ground had never stuck to you before, nor had it proven unreliable. The sea thundered. You wound up in my arms, squirming.
Today, you are older, and you are unafraid. You are wearing a polka-dot red cardigan over a striped green dress and a bright red hat, and in your left hand is a mango on a stick from the boardwalk vendor. I carry you out past the Coney Island pier; I take off my shoes and set you down with your small shoes on. You run out, mango stick held out carefully to your side. I walk after you.
The ocean is enormous to you, and I sense the thrill of awe and fear little people feel when confronted with the world’s vastness. You look up at me and I smile; I don’t seem scared. My shoes are off, I point out; would you like to take off yours? Your eyes go thoughtful, and then you nod. We walk up together to the mouth of the impossible ocean. The wet sand is cold; it’s only May. Individual sand grains twinkle. “Look, sweetie pie, a shell,” I say, pointing to your feet. You reach down and scoop it up out of the wet sand. It is a fragment, something that fits between your tiny finger and thumb. There is a clump of sand at its point; you hold it up in my face, grinning, as I pretend to be disgusted.
You laugh that throaty, snuffly, catching giggle of yours. The waves run closer, reaching us. For the only time in your life, you feel ocean water running over your toes.