You haven't been the same since you came back. You died, I'm sure, somewhere along the way. After beating that Disasteroid you couldn't find a moment of peace anywhere on earth. I guess that's why you left. You didn't really tell us much, just that you had to go away, find somewhere quiet – find yourself. You didn't pack any bags, just went ghost and gave each of us a hug, phasing through the roof and off into the sky.
It's anyone's guess where you went. A few people say you ended up in the ocean, you know, since you don't need to breathe or anything, and some people say you'd like to be human sometimes and that you landed in a remote place in Russia or the Middle East. Me, I'm sure you went to space. You've always wanted to go and I've been in your room enough times to notice those posters. You have Jupiter pasted across your walls and a chart of the Andromeda Galaxy spread on the ceiling in the spot over your bed - stars above your head for the ones you dreamed of reaching. Did you finally find them? I want you to hold a star, Danny, you deserve one.
But now you're back in the atmosphere, and I swear I can see drops of Jupiter in your hair. They're orange against that pale, silky white. They wouldn't stick out so much against the black, you know, but you're never human anymore. Phantom has stuck to you, people suppose, but I suspect something worse.
It's so incredibly different being around you, you know? You act like summer, for lack of a better word to describe it; you seem disinterested – no winter winds like your cool anger, spring breezes and blossoms like your cheerfulness, and no autumn rains, like your sadnesses. You're as disinterested as the summer air, still and just hot enough to make people uncomfortable around you. I miss the comfort, Danny, I really do.
Not even your footsteps are the same. You're walking like rain, light and rather unchanging, but so depressing to be around, even if you don't mean to be that way.
You come to talk to me and for the first time in forever you seem excited about something. It's been that way, since you returned from your stay on the moon. Sometimes you'll listen like spring, with some sort of chirp in reply to whatever I need to say, and sometimes you'll talk like June, excited and warm and peaceful, but it's all in anticipation of summer. You know how I hate your summers, Danny. I'd rather spend forever in winter.
Change back into a human, please, just so that I know you're safe. I need to see that black hair and those blue eyes again. I need to see your skin darken into that even tan and I need to see that freckle on the outside of your left eye that Phantom never had. But I know something happened in space. Otherwise you'd be human, and you'd smile in your humanity. God, I miss that smile.
Tell me, did you sail across the sun? Did you make it to the milky way to see the lights all faded? Is that why you are so depressed? Did you find that heaven is overrated? I know you were looking for it. I'm sorry if it wasn't what you expected, but don't get too down over it yet. Please, just find it in yourself to smile once in a while and let yourself cry and get angry again. Life isn't over for you yet, Danny, is it? If you're still alive, please do something to let me know.
Or do you just want to get back? Maybe heaven isn't as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe you miss it. Maybe, when you were out there, you fell for a shooting star, one without a permanent scar. I hope it was perfect, Danny, if it's why you're keeping us out. You don't deserve anything less than perfection, especially if not being around it depresses you this much.
You came back with shimmering dust sticking to you and I am sure a rock from a far away planet makes that lump in your pocket. It's important to you and you're sad to have left that far away place, I know, but tell me: did you at least miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?
Please, you're back from your soul vacation. You're done tracing your way through the constellations. You're back on Earth, Danny. You're back with your friends and family. Talk to us; tell us how it was. You've been speaking so cryptically lately. You've been reminding me that there's room to change and grow and I have no idea what all that means.
I'm afraid I'm the reason you have been so disinterested lately. It's not my fault, is it? Now that you're back in the atmosphere I'm afraid that you've seen so many breathtaking, exciting, impossible sights out in space that, coming back to earth, even your closest friends and family are useless to you. I'll try to make it up to you, but I can't compare to Jupiter.
There you go, talking weirdly again. This time you're telling me the story of a man who was too afraid to fly so he never did land. It's sounding like a parable to me. Maybe you're disguising your own story in metaphors and references. What happened out there, Danny? You're so different now. I'm worried.
But tell me, did the wind sweep you off your feet? Did you finally get your chance to dance along the light of day? You've always wanted to be up there, in between the earth and the sun. It's the only thing that even has a chance of matching you, Danny. You know that, right? Maybe that's why you went out there. Outer space is filled with suns and stars and planets and moons – all things bigger and more important than any mere human can grasp. I bet you know, Danny. They tell you stories and I'll bet you loved it up there, but you had to come back to the Milky Way.
It's okay, I tell you one day. You nod; maybe you're finally getting to understand this. It's okay if you leave us alone down here on earth. You keep going up as many times as you need, alright? You saved us all and some time alone is the least we can give you. You argue with me, though. What will we do when you're off alone and ghosts are terrorizing the people. But I tell you we'll be fine. You are unsure. You don't think you should leave us alone. I look you straight in the eye and tell you exactly what I've been thinking all this time: you haven't been the same since you got back from wherever you were and I can't stand being around you when you're like this. You're too depressed to talk to and I know that there is still a lot of stuff you need to figure out. Still, I can't help but tell you I'll be sad to see you go.
Was it really that great out there? Did you see the planets, have Venus blow your mind? Did you find everything you wanted to find? Evidently not, since you're going out there again, but this time, at least remember to miss me while you're looking for yourself out there.
Once again, you're sitting on the roof, ready to take off. The stars shimmer above you and I know you're already anticipating being close to them again. I come and sit next to you. You're leaving again, and I hope when you come back it will be to stay. I slip one hand into yours and you squeeze it reassuringly. Your flesh is cold against mine and I can't help but shiver. We exchange words and I finally work up the courage to ask about the lump in your pocket. You reach a hand in and wordlessly pass its contents to me. It is not at all what I expected. Instead of a shimmering moon rock, you have let me hold a golden locket. I pry it open and find a picture of all four of us, smiling and laughing at the camera because back then we had hardly a care in the world. Well, except for the fact that you were off fighting ghosts all the time. That bruise on the forearm you have slung around Sam indicates it was shortly after that nasty fight with Skulker. That bruise seems so unimportant now.
I look up into your glowing green eyes and beg you to make them blue again. You haven't been human once since you came back. You smile sadly and simply shake your head slowly, confirming my worst fears. Your human half is gone and maybe that is the real reason you've been so depressed lately. You went up into space to try to find yourself, and lost half of you in the process. I hug you, ignoring the fact that you chill me to the bone beneath my thin blue t-shirt, and I pray you don't notice the tears collecting on my cheeks.
I'm so sad to see you go, and I remind you why you should come back. Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken, your best friend always sticking up for you even when he knows you're wrong. Tucker, remember? And Sam? You'll miss those guys.
Can you imagine no first dance, freeze dried romance, five hour phone conversation, the best soy latte that you ever had…and me…?
You nod at me, and whatever hope you had in you seeps out in the most disheartening manner. I contradict myself once again, telling you that I'll miss you but I know you need to go. Just, come back, okay?
I feel a gentle kiss on my cheek and I know this is it. You're leaving and not even you have any idea of when you'll be back. When you do, we'll be old, I am sure. Time is relative and you will have absolutely no record of it because you can't age anymore. The batteries in your watch will die and you can't keep record of time by watching the planet's shadows pass by. Just keep an eye on the Earth, I tell you. Come back once in a while, when it's half way to the sun and America is heading into spring. I want you to see the blossoms again and remember that Earth is beautiful too. Bring me moon dust and tell me who you are when you get back.
I hope the wind sweeps you off your feet, and you finally get your chance to dance along the light of day, but head back to the Milky Way, alright?
You fly off, a speck of black and white across the wide, navy sky. A shooting star falls in the distance and I know you're going out there to catch it.
You won't come back for years. To be honest, I don't even think I'll be alive when your feet touch the earth again. But I'll always think of you. Your room will remain untouched, even if we could use it for storage. Mom and Dad thought of having another baby, but they decided it would feel too much like they were replacing you and Mom was getting on in years anyway. It just wouldn't be a good idea. That's okay with me; you're the only little sibling I ever wanted.
That poster of that far off galaxy you have in your room – I hope you made it to the part you circled in inky black pen. I hope you're sitting on a planet there, watching a million moons go by, and maybe even thinking of home.
Be happy, Danny, and take as long as you want. You need time to think, but please, don't forget to miss me while you're looking for yourself out there.
Written April 25, 2010
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