“We’re all just made of stardust!” My friend Betsy proclaims over brunch, like she’s the first person to have ever reached this conclusion. She sits back from her seasonal fruit and granola plate, smiling with smug triumph beneath the yellow umbrella of the cafe outside.
So I stab her in the face with a fork.
I can do this because I just made Betsy up so that I could have someone say a line in my blog about stardust. Because I don’t have any girlfriends a la Sex and the City that I have brunch with.
In the city I hardly ever see any stars anyway. In the city, the bright lights of jagged toothed skyscrapers, of cars and street lamps change the sky to an empty, dull purple sheet at night. Hazed over by clouds, pollution, and car exhaust. Skimmed by airplanes and occasionally a helicopter search light, scanning the streets for some fugitive.
I always find myself looking up. Searching.
I had my first existential crisis at the age of 6. My mom took me to get a haircut, and for the first time, the hairdresser asked me how I wanted it cut. Prior to this point she’d always just asked my mother. Without missing a beat, I told her, “I want half of it shaved and the other half dyed black.” The elderly hairdresser turned to my mom and said, “Is he joking?” My mom said, “Yes. Just give him the usual.” So I got the same bowl cut, and we drove home in silence, until my mom finally asked, as we turned into our driveway, “Where did you come from?”
I didn’t know, but had often wondered this same thing. Surrounded by the cowboy boots, the county fairs and 4-H meetings, the blue ribbon show pigs, and chicken fried everything of my youth, I couldn’t help but wonder how these people could spawn me. I looked to the heavens and prayed for an alien abduction. Every time I saw the night sky I half expected the mother ship to beam me up and reunite me with my true people.
I’d like to say that adulthood has given me this greater sense of connection to my fellow man. As a grown up living in Los Angeles, where the stars were all on movie screens, walking down red carpets, eating in restaurants and shopping at my local grocery, where everyone had year round tans and there were plastic surgery coupons in the weekly paper. I still found myself wondering where I’d come from and how I’d gotten there.
I was on a date with an entertainment lawyer in West Hollywood. We were standing outside beneath the Dr. Seuss palm trees that lined the boulevard. I asked him what the last book was that he read, and he looked back and said, “You don’t belong in L.A.”
Then we made out in an alley behind some bar and I never heard from him again.
Last night in Portland Carlos and I were waiting for the late night bus to take us back to his apartment. A toothless woman wearing tie dye and polka dots came up to me and asked if she could use my phone. I say, “No.” Because I value my phone more than I value not seeming like a dick, and she walks away and borrows a phone from some rotund teenager who is twirling two wrenches tied to the ends of shoelaces. They get on the bus with us. The bus where everyone smells like cheese and has loud, public conversations with their parole officers.
Carlos turns to me and says, “Who are these people?”
I turn to him and say, “I know, right?” The bus is the mothership that takes us home. I can’t speak for the rest of the world. The senselessness of racism, wars, poverty and inequality. The absurdity of life. But sometimes when I look into his eyes I see it. Stardust.