For Christmas, last year, I was given the most beautiful gift anyone had ever given me.
This year, on December 25th, I will see it again and every year on for the rest of my life. Rising above the horizon will be Messier 93; hidden in the sharp light of the cluster, is my star. My own part of the universe, 3600 light years away, 100 million years old and so precious.
My love of the stars was never a secret to anyone. Sure, all the books and research into aerospace medicine was a fanciful idea - I knew better than to think I'd survive medicine well enough to take it to space - but it was an idea I had, a little dream I could escape to and feel blissful in. Something between excitement and awe.
I talked about it to anyone who would listen long enough. I didn't care how ridiculous I sounded. And one person listened. He listened like he could see what I saw, like he could feel the joy I felt talking about it. I remember being so absorbed in whatever I was saying that I didn't pay attention to his expressions enough. They were love. Complete love and understanding. The kind you picture on the faces of parents watching their child get excited about the simplest things - not patronising, but content and blissful.
If I could steal those moments and live off the painful joy they bring alone, I'd die happy.
I understand that this all seems very overblown. People can buy a star and register it in anyone's name. It takes little effort to do.
That was not the point. That star represents so much to me. I was 'his star' from then on, he understood that it was not just some gift.
But still, I only wish he knew how much it means.
It is hope and love struggling through the fear and pain of that time. It is humbling, a reminder that I am imperfect next to something so perfect and yet someone loved me so deeply, despite my very un-celestial ways. It is almost permanence - when I die it remains, like an epitaph. An imprint, a tiny, insignificant reminder in a database somewhere that a girl with my name once lived and someone loved her so much they gave her a giant, light- emitting ball of pure energy burning through milleniae of history thousands of light years from where she lived her little life. I had hoped I would name another star in that cluster after him, so there would be two of us, as friends, as lovers but never separated. That, even if circumstances conspired against us, somewhere, somehow we'd be together.
I have never told him this, I don't know whether he would or could ever want to know now. When he gave me the star I hoped we would see it together a year on, that it would mark our time together. But this year, if I can manage it, I will be seeing it alone.
I never thought I could be capable of this much foolishness. Frankly this entire post is embarrassing, but I wanted to write it honestly, openly, so that in a few weeks' time, when I find out whether or not my heart will be broken for the last time by him, I am forced to look back on this and be grateful for at least this. That he loved me however brief that love was. That in my moments of complete desolation, someone thought I was as precious and beautiful as a star.