I fell in love with a woman made of stars.
It started when I first camped in the mountains with my dad. He pointed to each of the constellations and told me their stories. My favorite were the water signs. The mother-and-son tragedy of Pisces broke me, the carelessness with which Cancer had been elevated never failed to make me smile.
Eventually he drifted back into melancholic silence. I let him go to bed early. His depression had lasted my entire life, and there were things I was used to.
Later, as he slept, I crawled out of the tent. The pines around us were like black teeth chewing up into a glittering river. I pointed into the sky and told myself stories.
When I reached Ursa Major I stopped. “Come down,” I asked. “Let me meet you.”
So the stars swirled together, as if in response to my plea. The spiraling cosmos solidified and dripped a human form to Earth like water from a twisted rag. She landed smoothly on the ground, then sat across from me, in front of the fire’s final embers.
We did not speak.
If we had, I would have told her of all the myths that covered her body. Of Orion and Orpheus. Athena and Themis. Not every story went into those stars, I know, but it was so easy to imagine her embodying them all.
She pointed toward the sky and opened her mouth to breathe out a cloud of cosmic dust. This haze shifted its colors until images appeared in it. I saw the lives of beings in other times, living on the worlds she indicated. Millions of civilizations across spacetime that had found their own pattern in the galaxies that composed her.
I, myself, was only a teenager. But to her, my world was a child.
I awoke the next morning, alone. I did not see her return to the sky.
Every year, I insisted my father take me to the same campsite, multiple times a year, if he could manage. When he became too drunk and bitter, I drove myself.
The woman made of stars descended every time.
The week after my Father killed himself, I gave my mother all the love and comfort that I could. I allowed her to cry into my chest.
I did not mourn there. Instead, I held it in until I drove up to the mountains and wrapped my arms around the woman of stars.
“I want to be bigger,” I whispered, through my tears. “Big, like you, until I am beyond this.”
She shook her head, no. Then vanished.
The next time I returned, she did not come down.
The time after that, she showed the story of herself, in that sky. She’d landed on hundreds of worlds. Stayed at each for a time, remaining alien. She’d watched families form and break apart. She’d loved so many men, each gone away to a woman of their own kind. I’d lost my father. She’d never had one. Only a void stretching from planet to planet.
I begged her only to take me with her once. So she acquiesced.
The planets we visited have no human names, and I am not so arrogant to name them myself. In a world far from this one, there are jungles so cold that the leaves hiss and wither when you touch them. Green fluid that does not freeze flows through their vines. The sun is bright and strong, just cold. On a rocky planet in which thousands of Everests jut out of an ocean, bird-fish build cities on the mountainsides. Deep in the valleys of a gem-encrusted world, silicon golems harvest the glycerol found beneath their planet’s crust.
What was a suicide, to each of the stars that guided these worlds? To the millions of celestial bodies that made up the surface of her skin? I begged her again; allow it not to hurt. To be so vast as to consider each tragedy an unaffecting pinprick.
She placed her head in her hands, then opened herself. I looked inside and saw that for every explosion of light, there was an interminable vacuum. Most damning: it all stretched further, as time went on. Longer-lived than me by far, still, she watched herself break apart. As her body separated, so too did the universe she inhabited.
We are one explosion. The fallout from the largest spontaneous combustion in the history of everything. Soon, on the cosmic scale, we will stabilize into interminable heat-death. To enlarge yourself does not mean to be free from mourning, but only to mourn on a larger scale.
I held her as she wept.
Now she visits me every night. Her body grows larger and less opaque. Though she will not disperse until long after I am gone, she will leave nothing behind. I care for her in her grief. I go on journeys in dreams, and see what she sees.
Sometimes, I ask her what it will be to lose me.
She holds my hand and shows me an image of herself, grieving me. Loving one miniscule human out of her own entire expanse enough to mourn. The Milky Way spills from her eyes, and she smiles.