“What the hell…?” Robb blocked the doorway. “Holy crow. Are those stars?”
I froze at the threshold of my home, not that Robb noticed. He wandered in, face tipped heavenward to better see the strange beauty of my apartment’s contrived night sky. Above his head, paper starlight shimmered down from a black-lit galaxy. Orion, Sagittarius, Ursa Major, Canis Minor, Scorpius, Gemini—the constellations hung in painstaking precision, glowing on purple pinpricks, lighting the darkness.
Accurate and overly detailed, I’d crafted every star, made each scrap of paper, and creased every fold. The project had taken years but, voilà, origami universe.
Robb wandered, and the stars led him through the apartment, straight toward my bedroom as if they guided a wayward captain home after years at sea.
I shook that idiocy from my head, and on leaden feet I trailed after my overnight guest. Hot blood colored my cheeks. “I know my apartment is a sort of odd.”
“No.” He turned to look at me, and I banged into his chest. “Did you make all of these?”
“Well, yeah. Who else?”
“I swear, the sky looks exactly like this in the desert. Clear and wide and the stars go on forever. Only not as colorful, or so close.” He tapped a tiny pointed star, and it spun on a delicate silver thread. “This one was done in pieces, right? How the hell did you make them so small?”
“Practice.” I left him marveling over my freakish masterpiece and flipped the bedroom light switch. There were a couple pair of jeans on the floor, and the simple maple bed lay unmade, but otherwise, a portion of the Milky Way flowed from my window, over the bed, and disappeared in the closet. Pretty much business as usual.
Robb followed me, nosing into my private life with ease. “Where did you learn to do this?”
“I thought you remembered everything?” I wouldn’t bore him with a retelling, but the only real memory I had, before I became a ward of this fine state of Connecticut, was making my first paper crane when I was maybe four or five. We were in a bus station, my mother and I. We’d gone inside to keep warm and to pass the time, and she showed me how to crease those tricky paper folds. I could still see her blonde hair falling across my cold fingers as she worked. Make a wish, Jason baby.
I ducked into the bathroom to brush my teeth and made a point not to look in the mirror. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like who I saw.
I wasn’t a hoarder, or a drug addict. I didn’t collect model trains or dress mouse skeletons in homemade clothing. But there were a lot of pieces of folded paper hanging around my home. Thousands of them. Maybe more. Robb must have noticed the paper vignettes lining every shelf, the nursery rhyme families, the pointy nativity, and the kaleidoscope Narnia. From his perspective, the place must look like a glorified scrap bin.
I could have fallen through the floor.
Instead, I finished brushing my teeth.
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