Directions to the House of Unnumbered Stars

The house of unnumbered stars will be there when you need it, the night cartographer waiting with her pens and silver inks. Do not be ashamed of wanting her to draw you a star map. It’s no surprise that it hurts when the world fails to understand the unfamiliar contours of your human constellation. It hurts when your house is not considered a home because you share it with a friend, not a spouse. It hurts when your partnership is dismissed because your girlfriend also has a wife. And you are not the first to seek a map. We who create constellations the world doesn’t recognize have always been here. We know how to find the house. The search is worth it, even if in the end you decide a map will not help you.

* * *

Timing is important. The first step to finding the house is to crack an egg into the hands of someone you love, one star in your constellation. Compare the yellowness of the yolk to the brightness of the sun. If the yolk is very yellow and the day is rainy, wait for clearer skies. If the yolk is pale and the sun bright, wait for clouds. The egg must be eaten before you set out. Since you are allergic to eggs, feed it to the person who let you crack an egg into their hands. Scrambled if you’re feeding it to your nibling, poached for your sister.

* * *

Bring an item given to you by one of your stars which has influenced the direction of your life. The recipe book from your best friend that made you a pastry expert, the first tiny houseplant that taught you to garden, the notebook that told you your adopted gay aunt believed in your words.

Dogs are also quite good at direction. If your dog needs a walk, bring your dog.

* * *

When you venture outside, continue until you reach a memory. As your constellation formed, your mind annotated the world around you, creating associations between places and people. Perhaps you will find the Puerto Rican restaurant or the witch hazel tree, the bookstore or the playground, which reminds you of one of your people.

Turn left here.

* * *

No matter how long you live in a neighborhood, there’s always a street you’ve never ventured down before. In just the same way, it is always possible you will find someone wonderful and new to add to your constellation.

The house is on this unfamiliar street. You will know you have found the right street because your heart will begin to pound and its beat will whisper to you, here.

You will find the house at the end of the street, at a crossroads. Its front yard is a chaos of hellebore, acanthus, rosemary, yucca. Picture the house a family of witches would live in—it looks like that. Choose between the lichen-stained stone steps and the wheelchair-accessible ramp that looks like it might be the back of a sleeping troll.

When you reach the front door, knock thrice.

* * *

You will enter a house full of unnumbered stars. Darkness and starlight will swallow you and an old woman will come to take your hand. She is the night cartographer.

“Tell me,” she will say, “who do you love and who loves you? Who asks if you have eaten and remembers you are allergic to eggs? Who do you trust with the shadows and squirrels in your mind?”

You will tell her. You will speak of your girlfriend and your girlfriend’s wife, your best friend you share a home with, your sister and your nibling, the adopted aunt who told you how to find the house: your tangled queer family. Tell the cartographer everything.

* * *

She will lead you through the house until you find the corner where your stars are shining. She will remind you that a constellation is an unreal thing, invented by humans to explain the world to each other. She will remind you that this is true even of the constellations everyone knows, the husband-and-wife constellations, the parent-and-child constellations. She will remind you that not everyone will understand your constellation even when it is mapped.

You will bite your lip, hesitate. Maybe having a map will make it hurt worse when people still don’t understand.

“What good does it do, then?” you will ask.

The night cartographer cannot answer this question for you. She will sit you down in a chair of black velvet and give you time to think.

* * *

Ask yourself: why exactly does it hurt when the world fails to recognize your constellation? Is it tiring to explain over and over again what your people mean to you? Does it frustrate you? Are you afraid that this thing you have created for yourself is not as good as the old, familiar constellations?

You will run your hands over the soft velvet arms of the chair and answer these questions, and when you have answered these questions, you will say, “The map is for me.”

The night cartographer will smile and arrange her inks and paper.

Tell her more about the people she is mapping, about your girlfriend’s penchant for growing garlic, the time your nibling explained gender to their math teacher. Tell her about egg dripping through fingers, your memories of the landmark where you turned left. This sort of detail helps the cartographer choose the right shade of silver ink for each star.

* * *

When the map is done, she will show you how to fold and unfold it. Because you will unfold it often. When the world tries to tell you your links to your people are not strong enough to form a constellation, you will unfold the map to remind yourself the world is wrong.

You will thank the night cartographer. You will thank her from the bottom of your belly, where you keep your starlight when you are not in the house of unnumbered stars.