• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 12
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Bright star

I think I can remember walking into the garden, over damp grass, worrying about snails. Through the bars of the rusty climbing frame, we looked up at the light-polluted sky. Even in a city you could see it, Wikipedia tells me.

Comet Hale–Bopp (formally designated C/1995 O1) is a comet that was perhaps the most widely observed of the 20th century, and one of the brightest seen for many decades.

In a “secret” diary sealed with a purple heart padlock, I wrote:

Tonight I saw comit hale.

21 years on, I feel pleased with my 10-year-old self for recording the momentous event, witnessed by so many; for claiming my stake in this shared history.

I knew exactly what I was doing. The key to the purple heart was tied to the diary with a pink cord.

Though I drew it, I cannot remember what the comet actually looked like. But I have a memory of the strain of trying to imprint it on my brain, the panic of the moment passing without trace, the guilty fear that I wasn’t thinking or feeling what I was supposed to be thinking or feeling.

That feeling is familiar.

Floating on my back in a pink-edged sea. I remember thinking: remember this. The sun was melting into the warm salt water, but louder than the gently lapping waves was the rush of blood in my ears. The expanse of the ocean couldn’t breach the brittle bounds of my head.


Bright star

The trouble with holidays is that you’re not supposed to feel sad.

The trouble with reading that diary is seeing all the blank pages. You can’t always choose what you remember.

Some memories I’ve tried fiercely to protect; worn them thin like videotape.

At the back of the garden I find a path of flattened grass: a groove made by animals passing through, unnoticed.