The Lifetime of a Star
A story about a lonely astronaut, his long journey, and what we're all really looking for when we look to the stars
This story was nominated by Soft Star Magazine for the 2023 Pushcart Prize.
Korinne West is an artist and writer from Texas. Growing up on tales of adventure and the power of human connection, she's spent the last decade or so writing her own stories. When not putting pencil to paper or geeking out about some space phenomena, they can be found cuddling their very fluffy cat or drinking copious amounts of tea. You can find her infrequently on Twitter @tealbrigade.
Every morning, he wakes up in the dark. And for a second, even after so many mornings, just for a second, he thinks he’s back in that cage.
Then the lights fade on, sensing he’s awake. The sun shield over the windows slides back, letting in unfiltered starlight. The room fills with a cool glow, illuminating steel walls and computer screens, and he remembers that he's safe, that he's in a different sort of cage.
“Good morning, Commander,” a chipper voice sounds over an intercom, an hour on the dot since he awoke. “How are we today?”
Evander floats upside down — although, what’s really up or down in zero gravity? — kicking off the wall gently until he can tap the screen. A familiar face appears, one he’s seen every day for decades now. “Good morning, Junie,” he replies. “Tired. That’s how we’re doing.”
“One of these days, you’re going to be a morning person, Evander, if only for the change of pace.”
“One of these days, I’ll be in a place where there’s actually a morning,” he replies with a grin. The next line in the script, long memorized. “What’s the news today?”
While she speaks, her voice slightly crackly over the radio, he moves around. Checks some readings, types them out. Asks the computer to generate a cup of tea, if it would be so kind. ("Cup" being a turn of phrase, of course, since it has to be in a bag with a special straw to keep it contained.)
Wrapping up, June asks, “Anything new with you?”
He gazes out the window. “Passing by a nebula,” he notes. “Supernova remnants. Computer says it’s the Cygnus Loop.”
“Oh, wow, you’re already that far out, huh?”
“Yep. Time flies.” Evander studies the screen as Junie turns her face from the camera to jot down some notes. She’s got to be, oh, late fifties by now. She’s had the same hairstyle the whole time, a sensible bun with a pencil stuck through it. One of the better liaisons he’s had, Evander thinks fondly. She’d taken one look at him and decided that, even from millions of nautical miles away, she was going to mom him. (He only very briefly complained.)
There’s a comfortable pause over the comms. “Something I meant to mention sooner, Evander,” she finally says.
“Well, you know my wife’s passed. The kids all moved out.” June pauses. “I’m gonna go stay with Mara—you remember, my oldest? They’ve got a nice place out in Farrah, and… well, as great as it’s been working on DX3 with you, I think I’m ready to not be alone anymore.”
Evander is silent. Then he finally says, “Well, Junie, I certainly can’t fault you that. So when’s your last day with TAF?”
“Mm.” He floats back in view of the screen, sipping the last of his tea. “It’s certainly been a joy knowing you.”
“Oh, same to you, Evander.”
Then he gets a devious smile. “So what shall we put on the docket for today?” he asks, turning himself right-side-up to really get one last look at her, his old friend. “As a little sending-off party?”
“Well, I’d sure love a good look at that nebula, if you can swing it.”
“For you, Officer June,” Evander says with a wistful smile, “I can swing it.”
He carefully dismantles the camera mount and drags it over to the window, pointing it at the swirling nebula slowly turning outside. June oohs and aahs, and they talk and laugh until Cygnus is long past and June’s shift has come to an end. They say a final goodbye. Evander is good at them; June is not, and sheds a few tears.
When the call ends, Evander Hartley stares at himself in the dark screen for a few minutes. Nearly thirty years, and he can pinpoint when every hair on Junie’s head went gray, when every wrinkle formed. And he simply remains… himself. As always. Thirty-something. Brown-haired, hazel-eyed, thin and wiry. Every inch of his skin covered with harsh black lines, marks meant to signal anyone who sees them that he is unnatural.
He feels it most on the goodbye kind of days.
He floats over to the wall of the communications room and grabs a chunky marker. There’s a list of five names, four of which are crossed out, written in the top corner. With a sigh, he crosses out the last one.
I think I’m ready to not be alone anymore.
“Only four hundred thirty-seven years to go,” he says softly to the wall, and his voice ricochets around cold steel into empty space.
[ONE HUNDRED NINETY-EIGHT YEARS]
“Everything all right over there, Hartley?” The voice is amused. Evander can practically see the insufferable smirk behind it, despite currently being wedged underneath a console.
“Oh, just peachy,” he responds, flinging his hand out to grope for the tool he just whacked into his nose before it floats off. “Doing great. Irving, next time, kindly remind the Terran Alliance Fleet that I was a paralegal, not an engineer.”
“Well, buddy, you’re DX3’s only field agent, so you get to wear all the hats out there. Isn’t that exciting?”
“That’s certainly a word for it,” Evander grumbles, clicking the last port into place and bolting the final corner down. “Okay. That should do it. Unless I read these instructions wrong.”
That gets him a laugh. “They’re diagrams, man. No words to misread.”
“Fine. Unless I misinterpreted these hieroglyphs.” Evander scoots out from underneath the console and wipes the sweat off his brow. “All right. How’s the signal?”
“Recalibrating.” Irving pauses. “Receiving data…”
Evander puts tools away and studies his handiwork while he waits. A nondescript box-shaped object now sits under the main communications console. Thanks to recent breakthroughs in interstellar travel, some small, unmanned craft can travel faster than Evander’s old ship can fly. They haven’t gotten the tech to work quite right with larger crewed vessels, but it means Evander can receive additional upgrades and supplies every now and then.
However, this also means that Evander has to install said updates, improvising quite a bit. He had to wire this one into the navigational systems along with the comms, and he fervently hopes he didn’t fuck anything up and get himself going three hundred years in the wrong direction. Hieroglyphs indeed.
He tries not to think about the length of his mission often. But even the designation—DX3—stamped on cargo and stitched onto his jumpsuit reminds him. DXIII. Five hundred thirteen.
“You're coming in clear,” Irving reports, and Evander exhales. “Trajectory looks good. You sure you’re not an engineer?”
“Looks like I am now,” Evander replies. “Tell your bosses I want a raise.”
“Sure, man. Once you’re done investigating the weird signal in the furthest reach of space and the mystery is all solved, I’ll make sure you have a nice bonus waiting for you.”
“Excellent. There’s my retirement plan.”
Evander wants to record the following laugh, wants a snapshot of this moment. It’s these moments that make this whole thing even the least bit bearable—someone always on the other end of the call. Another human being. Those first few days were filled with a lot of despair, but… at least there was someone to talk to.
And having that connection made the curtain of stars more like an adventure, and less like a punishment.
“By the way,” Irving interrupts Evander’s maudlin thoughts. “You might’ve noticed there was something else in the shipment.”
“Was there?” Evander glances up and around, looking for where the container got off to in the zero-G. He kicks off the floor in that direction, undoes the lid’s ties, and peers inside. “What is…”
It’s a book. An honest-to-god paper book, which Evander hasn’t seen since he was shoved into this ship and flung up at the atmosphere. (Somebody decided paper was a waste of cargo space when ereaders exist.) He takes it out, letting the now-fully-empty box drift away, and he just holds it. Paper and linen. Each page permanently marked, not just a matte screen that can rewrite itself however much it wants to.
“You quoted a book my mom liked to read a while back,” Irving explains. “I figured you might not know that others got published after… the start of the mission. So… there you go. A little in-flight entertainment for you.”
Evander thinks he might cry, which is stupid, and also a bad idea when moisture will float up and around and get into wiring. His fingers clench around the book. Solid and real.
“Irving,” he says, working very hard to keep his voice level, “you are a very, very good friend.”
“Aww, Commander,” the officer replies with a big grin. “That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”
Later, when the cabin lights dim and all is quiet, Evander hovers in front of the big window, book in hand. Each star is a gem against a velvet backdrop — something he thought of as cold and distant, now feeling just a little bit closer, a little bit more wondrous.
He cracks the spine and begins to read.
A new face appears on the screen. Unfamiliar, wary.
“Good morning, Commander Hartley,” they say.
Evander stares, confused. “Good morning,” he responds, more out of habit than genuine greeting. “Is Officer Levi out today? He usually handles these calls.”
The newcomer bites their lip. “I’m afraid,” they say slowly, “that Officer Levi is no longer with the Fleet. He, ah…” The cold demeanor melts, just a bit. “There was an accident.”
Evander’s breath hitches.
In his silence, the speaker goes on. “My name is Officer Emig. I’ll be your liaison from now on. I’ll… I’ll just send your reports directly for today, and give you some time to process. Call if you need something, otherwise we can speak more tomorrow.”
The screen goes blank, and Evander looks into his own face reflected back: shocked, still rumpled from sleep, and utterly unchanged despite the passing of time.
It was easy to forget, in the routine of things. The lines on his skin and what they meant. His liaison officer was just a picture on a screen — thirteen years was nothing.
Nothing to him. Those thirteen years were the rest of Levi’s life. No more good morning calls, no more inside jokes, no more irreverent report annotations. No more… Levi.
Now it’s someone else, and Levi is gone. Like he never even existed.
He’d forgotten, but now it’s sinking in all too deep. Evander is trapped in this ship just like he was trapped in a cage when they realized he couldn’t die. He is trapped here, doomed to watch stars be born and shine and fade and collapse. How long will it take him to collapse? How many thousands, millions, billions of years?
Evander casts his eyes around him until they land on one big, empty wall of his abode. He grabs a marker out of a bin bolted to his desk. He kicks himself up toward the ceiling, the top-left corner.
He writes, LEVI MALCOLM.
I refuse to forget, Evander thinks. The letters are wobbly, his hand shaking as he finishes the last M. These people are all I have left.
How many more will he come to know, only to lose them?
However many. I’ll remember every one.
Thirteen years. Five hundred to go.
He draws a line through the name written on the wall, and he stares at it for a long time.
[THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY YEARS]
“I worry about you sometimes,” the face on the screen says. “All alone out there.”
Evander smiles as he pats soil carefully around a potted sapling. An unexpected bonus from the new artificial gravity module TAF sent — he can do a little gardening, since he doesn’t have to worry about soil particles and moisture floating around hazardously. (He’s still not all the way used to the gravity, though. He keeps letting go of things in midair and expecting them to still be there when he turns back around. Many a cup of tea has been lost that way—but at least they’re proper cups now instead of a bag.)
“I’ve been ‘alone’ out here,” he replies to his liaison, “longer than you have been alive. I’m all right.”
Merrick sighs. “Just because you’re used to it doesn’t mean it’s alright.”
Evander doesn’t reply to that one. He trims his plant, hoping that this one will thrive even outside of its designed environment. He changes the subject. “Thanks for getting me the gardening things. I know horticulture isn’t exactly within the mission parameters, so I’m sure the budget people pitched a fit.”
Xe waves off Evander’s gratitude. “The mission parameters have changed so much in the last few centuries, it’s a wonder you haven’t sprung for anything else extraneous.”
“Besides,” xe adds, “considering you made contact with an alien species before we did, I think you earned a little something special.”
“Jealousy is not a good look on you, Officer Merrick,” Evander grins.
Merrick huffs. Evander watches xem cross xir arms petulantly, and he tries not to focus too hard on biceps and deltoids. “Who wouldn’t be jealous? And kind of annoyed! The Andromeda mission is literally scheduled to meet the Zmir in a few months. You just had to show us up, huh?”
“I have to entertain myself somehow. Besides, what’s the Fleet gonna do? Fire me?”
“You wish,” Merrick drawls, and a silence stretches between them. The two of them are very used to silences between words, and all of the sentiment they can hide there. “Who else would hire you?”
Evander laughs. “Well, the Zmir were very nice people. Maybe they need a human ambassador.”
Officer Merrick shakes xir head with a bemused half-grin. Evander likes that grin. He likes being the cause of it.
“It was nice to be in the same physical space as someone again,” he admits. “And to get off the ship for a bit. But they’re so different… it’s not the same as another human. I could go for sitting in a cafe right about now. Or on a park bench, people-watching.”
“Mm. Wind in your hair, the smell of fresh cut grass in the air. A pigeon trying to steal your sandwich.”
“God,” Evander groans, “I’d kill for some fresh cut grass. I’ll even take the pigeon.”
“Don’t commit murder, Evander, or they won’t let you come home.”
Evander meets Merrick’s eyes, perpetually aware that their gazes have never truly met, not really — just pixels over a camera. “You and I both know,” he says quietly, “I’m not going back home.”
Merrick sighs, looking away. Pixels, pixels. “I hate when you talk like that.”
“Can’t help it. I haven’t gotten this far without being pragmatic.” Evander wipes dirt from his hands and studies the black lines hugging every contour of them. It’s easy to think of them as just tattoos instead of the brand they are. “I’m an augment. Augments are illegal under the Eugenics Accords. There’s a reason they shipped me out here, and it’s not just because I’ll live long enough to reach Signal Origin.”
“You’ve never told me the full story about that.” There’s a hesitance in Merrick’s voice. Like xe isn’t sure xe’s allowed to broach this topic.
Normally, Evander would deflect. But it is Merrick. “I never saw much point to my life,” he says softly. “Made it all too easy to say yes when I should have said no.” He pauses. “No one waiting for me at home, no family left, no friends to check in… why not see if the rumors were true? Why not try to do something that would make people look at me? And I got what I wanted, all right. It just didn’t change anything at all. And then…”
He shudders involuntarily, thinking about what came next. “Better that I’m out here,” he finally says. “Better to live and die among stars.”
Another silence, less comfortable, stretches between them. Merrick’s jaw works, mouth opening and closing as xe tries and fails to find a response.
“Can I tell you a secret, Merrick?”
Evander walks over to the window, taking his newly potted plant and setting it on the sill. A little piece of Earth silhouetted against the galaxy. “I don’t really think of Earth as home anymore,” he says. “I’ve been on this ship… fifteen, sixteen times longer than I was there? I’m not sure I even remember it.”
A pause. “I’d help you remember,” Merrick says. “Anything you wanted.”
There’s so many things being said between those words. Evander closes his eyes. “Tell me again what it’s like there now,” he says softly. “If you would.”
Merrick tells him. Evander reads between the lines.
He wakes up in the dark.
Heart pounding, Evander tries to sit up, and realizes he can’t. His upper torso is strapped to a bed, a chair, something. He struggles in vain when suddenly, with a soft whoosh, a window appears and starlight floods the room.
He stares at the steady lights outside, and his heart sinks. “No,” he says, and his voice is hoarse and cracking from disuse. “No, no no no no.”
Now that there’s light, he can see there’s a latch on the straps holding him down. He reaches out to undo it, and his arm feels strange. When he’s finally released, his body starts gently drifting up.
“No no no,” he begs. He grabs one of the loose straps, wrapping it around his fist several times to keep himself from floating away, and looks around in a near-panic.
He’s on a ship. A fucking spaceship. He didn’t think they were serious.
“Good morning, Commander Hartley,” a voice says into the darkness. “Welcome back.”
“What did you do to me?” he screams.
The pause is long enough that he thinks for a second that he hallucinated the voice. But then it returns, deep and level. “Exactly what you agreed to,” it says. “It’s so altruistic of you to volunteer for this deep-space mission.”
“I didn’t volunteer for shit.”
“Thing is, Commander Hartley,” the voice goes on. “You didn’t have to. Because you are not supposed to be alive, and this was the only way to keep you… neutralized. Aren’t you glad you’ll be spending your long, long life being useful? Charting the unknown for humanity’s gain?”
If he wasn’t floating in zero gravity, Evander thinks he might have fallen to his knees. He’d lived much of his life alone — that’s what made him volunteer for the augmentation experiment, what got him into this mess. He always figured he’d die alone, too. But the thought of doing so out in the nothing, centuries away…
“And what has humanity ever done for me?” he asks bitterly.
“We’ve given you a second chance.” What Evander took to be a blank wall lights up, blinding him for a few seconds. On the screen, a diagram appears — a pale blue dot in the bottom left, and a tiny, blinking speck shining in the vast dark in the upper right. Evander squints at it as the voice goes on. “It will take approximately five hundred thirteen years to reach the point we are calling Signal Origin. Every unmanned probe sent before you has been stopped or destroyed by wayward spacefaring debris. Mission DX3 — your mission, Evander Hartley — is to reach Signal Origin and report back what you find.”
Evander sucks in a shaky breath as the reality of what's happened to him sinks in. “And then?”
“And then,” the voice says, “you will be free.”
[FOUR HUNDRED EIGHTY-SIX YEARS]
Evander wakes up in the dark for the last time.
His quarters are still quiet—less like a cage, more like a homey burrow after all the time spent here. The sun shield slides open with a bit of a creak, because he hasn’t quite been able to keep all of the old age out of the vessel. The wear is reassuring, evidence of their long journey.
In the starlight, he sits up, and breathes deep. A journey nearly over, now.
There’s greenery everywhere, in every free space. He might have gotten carried away with the propagating these last few decades. The only surfaces left in cold steel are the wall of names and the blank viewscreen.
One hour later, even that shifts. “Good morning, Commander Hartley,” says a familiar voice as the screen lights up. “Big day.”
“It sure is, Aurilelde,” he responds, sitting down in the chair at the desk. Something in his chest flutters, because after hundreds of years of this exact same routine, it can feel that this day is different. “It sure is.”
“I wanted to let you know,” Aurilelde goes on, “the rest of the mission team is coming in later when you reach Signal Origin. Quite a big deal, finishing a nearly five-century-long mission.”
“I’m just glad it wasn’t actually five centuries long,” he tells her. “Sorry you all printed DX3 on everything and then I didn’t have the decency to stick to the timetable.”
“Oh, I’m not complaining. I’m just happy to be here instead of retired and wondering whatever happened to you.”
“We’re about to find out,” Evander says, a strange feeling in his gut. The signal that prompted this mission is steady, and strong with proximity.
Soon enough, the hour arrives, the coordinates are reached, and a blue-green planet comes into view. One satellite. Several other planets in the sol system visible in the far distance like bright stars themselves. Readings come in, and Evander frowns.
“It looks like Earth,” he says. “Reads like it too. What are the odds?”
Aurilelde’s voice over the comms is staticky. “What readings? We’re not getting anything on our end, Commander.”
His frown deepens, but he can’t tear his eyes away from the view screen. It almost hurts to look at, but he drinks it in anyway, thinking of the place that rejected him, the place he always longed for, the place he forgot a long time ago.
“I’m going down there to investigate,” he says, punching in the commands and coordinates, and his little ship begins its descent.
He lands in an open field, and yet again he’s hit with that feeling of remembrance. He grew up in a place like this, he thinks. Before everything went wrong, before someone messed with his genes and the only modification he had were normal antidepressants. Before the cage. Before the ship. Before DX3.
If this were like home, Evander muses as he steps off his vessel for the second time in five centuries, then this is the park by the lake. He hears a bell tolling, maybe the church down the street. And home is just over that hill—
He walks closer, and it’s just like he remembers.
“Commander, what are you seeing? We’re not getting anything from the ship or your biometrics. Everything okay?”
“Copy that, Auri,” he replies as he walks toward the familiar structure. “I’m not sure yet…”
It’s not quite the house he remembers. It’s richer, more detailed. More real than what his mind has retained. The metal doorknob is warm under his palm, and the door creaks as it swings open. Evander steps in, avoiding a loose floorboard on instinct. The floor and walls are there, just as they should be, but the room is empty.
The far back wall is brushed steel instead of faded wallpaper. It looks exactly like his wall of names back on the ship. But on this wall, bold black marks make symbols Evander has never seen, angular and dotted and arranged in a way that he recognizes as language. A message from whoever sent the signal TAF picked up nearly five hundred years prior, a message Evander has journeyed a long way to uncover.
“There’s writing,” he reports, and he hears murmurs in his ear from the comms. He still hears the tolling bells outside. “Let’s see what they wanted us to know…”
He holds up his translator and it does its work in an instant, and the strange markings on the metal wall slowly morph into Terran words on its screen. Not the old names in his handwriting, but a simple phrase that shakes him to his core.
WE WERE HERE.
WE WERE HERE, WE WERE HERE, WE WERE HERE.
Over and over and over and…
“Commander? What does it say?”
All he can do is stand there and laugh.
Five hundred years, and he could weep at the irony of it all, but all his body does is laugh. Because he gets it. Because all he ever wanted was to be seen and to be heard, just like whoever sent the signal and left this message. Evander Hartley, the immortal man, the forbidden experiment, the secret astronaut—his entire existence can be folded down into one desperate transmission yelling into the void, can anyone hear me?
I was here. I was here. I was here…
Evander is no better than this monument, his own life a last-ditch effort to be remembered. There’s nothing else to learn about the people who left the writing on the wall. And now that he’s reached the end of the mission, now that the message is found, no one will remember Evander, either — his life gone and filed away under a big redacted bar. It was always going to end this way. This trip just prolonged the inevitable.
But Evander takes a step toward the writing, and there’s another room to the side. He turns, and he freezes. And he sees June.
He knows it’s not her, not really. And he doesn’t recognize where he is anymore, either. But there she is, with her sensible bun (sans pencil, this time), and she’s kneeling by a stack of boxes, unpacking. She takes out a little notebook, and she smiles when she opens it and pulls out a slip of paper. Evander watches as she takes it to the kitchen — her oldest kid’s house, then, this is her moving in — she takes it to the kitchen and pins the paper to the fridge.
Not a paper. A photograph — of him.
Evander stares. She’d caught him mid-laugh over something, floating against a starry backdrop. That last day, when he’d shown her Cygnus.
It’s him, as he always was, and all the grotesque lines on his skin look oddly at home sandwiched between the crayon scribbles of June Bannister’s grandkids.
WE WERE HERE.
He blinks, and it’s Irving St. Peters, standing at a bookshelf in a bedroom where an older woman lies in bed. He pulls down a familiar and battered hardcover, and Evander watches his expression shift from curiosity to recognition. When he hands it back to his mother, he begins to speak. Evander watches Irving’s mouth shape the syllables of his name, and the woman smiles, opening the book to a well-known page and pointing at a quote he knows by heart.
Evander’s limbs feel heavy. His breath comes quick.
WE WERE HERE.
It’s Levi Malcolm, hunched at his desk long after the day’s work has ended, and he’s painstakingly adding personal notes to the next day’s report. He grins to himself when he comes up with something clever, and Evander’s mouth echoes the smile even as his eyes fill with tears. Levi stands when he’s done, stretches, and Evander catches a glimpse of irritated and fresh black ink on his forearm—stars in a constellation, one Evander once told him was his favorite, and each dot is linked with the same kind of lines that cover Evander’s skin.
WE WERE HERE.
It’s Serenity M’benga, presenting to a gathered crowd the book that she and Evander stayed up editing together several nights in a row. She says it’s dedicated to a friend traveling far, far away.
It’s Vo Ngoc teaching his youngest son how to cook a new dish, and he reminds him that adding more garlic than the recipe calls for never hurt anybody, something his old coworker once taught him.
It’s Callan Woods, who Evander only spent three days with, giving a speech at a funeral, talking about a man all alone whom he said some terrible words to, and how you should try to live so you never regret not saying sorry.
And it’s Merrick Martinez, sitting on a park bench with the wind ruffling xir hair, watching all the passersby who will never know about the lonely astronaut. Xe inhales deep, and it smells of fresh cut grass. A pigeon waddles up to the bench, and Merrick’s face twists into a pained smile, and xe reaches out with a bit of bread and tries not to cry.
WE WERE HERE.
YOU WERE HERE, TOO.
“Commander?” The realest voice sounds far away, now, and Evander comes back to himself with tears following black ink trails down his cheeks. His surroundings are getting lighter. Less corporeal.
Five hundred years. One brave signal across the galaxy drew him out of a life he would have squandered, and gave him time with people he never met face to face, and every single minute of it mattered.
For the first time, Evander’s body feels every minute of its age. And he still hears that bell tolling.
“Sorry, Auri,” he says with a smile, and he hears what his voice would have sounded like if age ever had the chance to roughen it up. “Gotta go. I’ve got another call on the line…”
YOU WERE HERE, TOO.
The comms cut, and the signal that began Evander’s journey goes dark.
One week later, two Terran Alliance Fleet ships arrive at Signal Origin. They find Evander’s ship, old and battered as it is, in perfect working order. They find all the plant cuttings, and they find all of his notes and equipment, and they find the books and letters and trinkets from all the people Evander loved. They find a wall of dozens of names, all but the last one—SENRI AURILELDE—crossed out.
They do not find a planet.
And they do not find Evander Hartley.
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I’m going to be thinking of that last line for a long time… of how Evander’s finally free. UGH. I will forever be emotionally compromised by Evander seeing all the ways his life touched others because yes, that’s what it’s all about. That’s why we’re here. And we never get to see it, not really. How we truly impact others. Anyway. Thank you for this <3
I admire how the sense of loneliness and isolation is balance dby one of important relationships. Well done.