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Le Voyage de la Lune MAG
The man in the moon came down today. His freckles are constellations that dance across his cheeks, leaping to his lips. His skin is like an asteroid, a universe of marks. A planet is lost in his eye. Hair sweeps his forehead, his eyebrows like caterpillars. A tiny movement exposes his smirk, a laugh hides those galaxy eyes just for a second. He’s my own personal falling star.
He had fallen on the pavement in front of my house. He floated outside my window, calling for help. The moon never rose that night as the sky filled with stars. No one knows why but me. He sleeps in the guest room now.
He tells me he misses the sky. I tell him, if you flash your watch against the sun and it reflects on the ceiling, we can pretend it’s the stars.
He asks, you built a city for no one? No, I tell him, we built it for ourselves. He loves those skyscrapers, how humans keep building, keep climbing the skies. We will never be satisfied.
He tells me of couples in galaxies who live with strings around their wrists, forever intertwined. I teach him about peace in this world, the wars we’ve fought, the people who changed everything. How everything came together and then fell apart. He tells me he’s been watching.
I tell him he can’t survive here; he needs to go back. But the man in the moon does not want to go back. He tries to run away like a child would. He leaves a letter folded on his pillow. I find him lost in the forest a day later. We walk to the soccer fields. I sit in the center, right between the two goals. He tries to understand how to play, mimicking what he’s seen. I ask him what he thinks his purpose is. He tells me it’s to make the moon look beautiful, to make us happy.
We praise the moon, depend on it. The entirety of human life gazes hopefully at him every night. As we wrote songs, poems, books, and names for him, he gazed down in fascination and horror. He didn’t want the praise. He wanted to be on our side of the story. He focused on us every night, our houses glowing orange with warm conversation, laughter bubbling up into the clouds. He wanted to join us. He wanted to leave there.
He tells me how he loves it here. He talks about the skyscrapers again, the buildings that scratch the sky and splinter the wind. Humans are wonderful, he says, yes. You and your planet were meant to pierce the universe in two, to show the galaxies beautiful things. He wants to stay.
He watches the world panic. The night is too dark now. I ask how he does it; how he lights up the sky. He lifts his hand. Tiny, golden light dances out of his fingertips like fireflies. The wisps of light settle into my skin. You paint the sky for us, I ask him. Of course, he answers.
The sky has been dark for a year now. Everyone wonders why those moon craters disappeared. He tells me he feels like he’s human. He’s meant to be on Earth. I remind him that he is part of the Earth, that the moon is our planet’s debris, our satellite.
He walks from city to city, gazing at the empty sky, watching the people mourn his absence. I tell him about the kids who used to watch him as he followed them. They played tag with him as they drove through winding roads, twisting in their car seats to peer at him through the window. I tell him his moonlight comforts all who are afraid in the dark. I tell him how I used to sit on the back lawn, the cool grass itching my bare arms as I stared at the sky. There was a man in the moon, I’d been told, and I found that fascinating. I would talk to him. Of course, he never answered. Just stared at me, those crater eyes never blinking. My parents would beg me to come inside, but those stars kept pulling me back. For years, I’d have conversations with him. I learned to rely on him to be waiting every night to hear my stories of the world.
I would lie there, wishing for him, watching the stars circle around me, looking for a sign he was real. And now he was finally in front of me, but not like he should be. I wished wrong. But he doesn’t understand. He refuses to understand. He tells me he just wanted someone to talk to, as well. It’s quiet up there. It’s so cold. I tell him he can always talk to me; I’ll try to answer.
We continue to forge paths around the city. We observe the people. He sees a little boy crying to his mother. He wants to play with the moon just like his older brother did. He throws himself on the ground in a tantrum. I watch. When I turn, I see the man in the moon is crying gold. He wants humanity to strive, he tells me, but we can’t when we have nothing to guide us, nothing to share. He’s seen us build empires and take them down a day later. He’s seen us create life and destroy it. He thought it was humanity. Maybe it was our inspiration that led us to greatness. He must sacrifice his happiness for the world’s, he tells me. We are all made of stardust, he says, but he was destined for the sky.
The man in the moon left last night. We had stared at the sky, at the universe’s skeleton of suns and flesh of nebulas light years away. I told him he could leave. He should leave. I clasped his hands. I told him he needs to do this. I told him I’m just a girl; he’s the light in the sky. He tells me I can be so much more – I already am. I tell him the same. And he smiles. A small, defeated smile. He knows this already. He wishes it wasn’t true. But he leaps off the roof anyway, soaring back to his home.
I walk in my house. I tell myself I don’t need him. He has bigger things to do. I have bigger people to be. I find the letter he wrote, still folded on his bed. You don’t need to leave this world to influence another, he says. I read his handwriting. It looks like constellations. I read his words. He tells me he cares for me. He writes that he’s just some moon kid, that I can change the universe as much as he can. He tells me I’m not just a girl.
I watch the moon come back. The craters fall back into place. The stars grow dimmer as his light overwhelms the sky. People gather outside, watching with a relief I had forgotten existed and failed to comprehend. The radio hums throughout the house. I can imagine the happy voices, celebrating the bright night, talking of miracles. I look down at my hand, where his light slept in my own fingertips. And I see my name traced into my palm, written with the gold of the stars. My mother always warned me about boys who sigh lies from your ears to your chest, but she never warned me about the boys who sewed their hearts in your skin.
Years later, I sometimes pretend to speak to him. Help me, please. I can see his smile. You don’t need me. You have the skyscrapers. So I climb to the tops of buildings, itching to be closer to him. I beg for his attention, watch him grow fuller in the sky every morning until he shrinks at the sight of the sun. I despise the daylight. It takes him away from me.
People talk of the year of no moon as if it was a chapter in a fairy tale. A celestial interference, they think. Perhaps the man in the moon fell asleep, they wonder. One day I think I see him wink at me. I tell myself I’m just looking for a sign that he’s still up there, listening and waiting to hear stories of my day again. I walk through cities, trying to figure out if I convinced myself that he is searching for me, waiting for me to respond to his small gestures.
I find myself climbing stair after stair in a skyscraper plastered on brochures worldwide. When I glance out the window to see how far I’ve come, I see a child, gaping at my skyscraper, so tall it seems to stab the sun. His mother pulls his arm, yanking him to other matters. The child begins to cry.
And I pause. Suddenly, I feel like I’ve climbed far enough. I need to get down to the ground. I need to get away from the man in the moon. I run down the flights, trying to count each stair. I remember what the man in the moon was truly like. Wandering around like a lost dog, whimpering. Looking for distractions, staring at the sky. Avoiding what he needed to do. Desperate to be anything else. He was afraid of his own future, of his own power. He was afraid of himself. He was no hero, no savior.
I realized then that the man in the moon is really just a boy.