I am tired, nearly exhausted, but still I cannot sleep for more than an hour or two. For months now, I’ve been traveling alone, moving ever westward from Bharat, my natal land of light and knowledge. That place seems like a long-ago dream: its moist heat, its coconut palms; its gentle coastline; its piquant spices. Now, every day, I journey on alone, traveling ever westward across holy rivers, following the curve of a great sea, through putrid marshlands and across vast deserts, following a heavenly vision that is almost invisible by day but a beacon by night, a bright light in an inky, inscrutable sky.
All my life, I have been a watcher of stars. I have always been pushed forward by my own curiosity. My mind seeks to know; my heart longs to understand. All the answers to the questions of men are written in the stars, and it has fallen to me to decipher their meaning. But sometimes, the stars speak a language I struggle to comprehend. They tease and cajole: one small measure of time and I believe I understand them, then the next, all is gibberish. Or worse: stillness. Utter silence.
For months now, there has been a new, bright star in the heavens, one I’ve never seen before. For many nights, I peered upward, pondering its meaning. It seemed to beckon—no, summon—me, so one night, I decided to leave my home and follow it. Now, I think it might be a harbinger signifying the birth of a new king, but a king of whom, a kingdom where?
Should the star lead me to this new king, I decided to bring a gift with me—a silver vessel containing a liquid I concocted myself: an extract of the gummy resin derived from the small, thorny trees that grow all over Bharat. I obtained it by wounding the trees with a sharp knife, a process which caused them to bleed a liquid not unlike the blood of a man. What flowed forth from these wounds I call myrrh and, when mixed with a draught of posca or wine, it produces a most pleasing soporific effect. Taken in large doses, its tincture can reduce or even put an end to the pain and suffering of sickness or injury, even the scorpion sting of death. Imagine that: a soothing balm that can overcome death!
For the past several days, I have caught distant glimpses of another traveler whose route seems parallel to my own. He, too, seems to be alone; perhaps, if he is companionable, we should travel together. It would be comforting to share this strange journey with a kindred soul. Why, I ask, journey separately through life when it is possible to share ideas or conversation with someone whose perspectives or experiences are different from one’s own? Separation leads to oblivion, but traveling through time together, we can rise like the sun in the east, the promise of another day, the renewal of life, victory over death.
Perhaps this journey is foolishness, utter foolishness. A cosmic joke. Life begins, life ends. In between, we pass through the mountains and valleys of our days one-by-one, so why chase a star leading me who-knows-where? But I tell you this: I had no choice. I was compelled to travel in this star’s wake, seeking an answer to a question I cannot begin to articulate.
We shall see. One way or another, this journey, like life itself, will end. Perhaps when it does, I will understand. But in the meantime, I will seek out this fellow traveler, hopefully transforming my solitary journey into one of fellowship, or—who knows?—perhaps even friendship. Then, even if my bright star should tumble from heaven, its flame extinguished, at least I will not have travelled this mysterious road so weary, so alone.
Everything is written in the stars.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.net.