Ryan Heller
Against my cheek, a warm glow of light beams from the sun. 92,955,807 miles away. A boy, a man, tucked under his covers in bed. Tucked under a fluffy white down comforter listening to the playlist I made for my friend who fell out of a relationship.

So far:
Alanis Morissette, “That I Would Be Good”– the unplugged version.
Antony and the Jonsons’s cover of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”.
Arcade Fire, “Half Light I”.
If only I could reach out, two open hands from my chest center, if only I could reach out and express the feeling. Reach out. These two hands from my heart, my core, swirling and grasping for anything. For anybody. To touch, to hold, to show the pictures in my head. The words crashing in my head. The nonsensical, beautiful images and feelings pulsating as “Myth” by Beach House begins to play. Those swirling hands from within, they yearn to grab your heart. To pierce through flesh, through ribcage walls and hold tight. To wipe off the blood, the cold, thick red fluid and watch it beat with fresh awareness.
To feel.
To see.
A heightened sense of everything.
Every single thing.
The feeling.
The beat.
The sun against my face.
To connect–
The emotion, the mental photographs, the experience.
The Beatles, “Let It Be”.
The sun is 92,955,807 miles away and yet I still feel it’s warmth against my face. Through my bedroom window at 9:30 in the morning. I still feel the strength of a star from the comfort of these four walls. Against my cheek. A heat, a glow that ignites the flow of each word on this page. Laying down with a blank mind, a mind unsure what to release, until sunrays pour through heavy clouds into my window, against my skin. 92,955,807 miles and I feel it’s touch. I feel hands of the sun swirling, puncturing my frame to grip my heart. Wipe the blood from my heart. Feel the beat of my heart.
And I question the effect of one voice.
Of these words.
From within the same planet, the same spherical orb, the same thriving ball of existence. Question one person helping another, the effect of one voice speaking out, one story resonating with another, one idea sparking change to one unsuspecting individual.
Maybe you.
I can feel so distant from things, from people. So far from other countries. So far from my own husband. My family. But yet I feel the warmth of the sun shining upon my face, 92,955,807 miles away. Some days I can feel the weightless weight of the universe resting against my chest and all I want to do is be alone. Some days I can be in a room with thirty other people and I float–
In space.
I float.
Without gravity. A backdrop of pure, beautiful, black and diamond dust across the horizon. Stardust. Swimming through the thickest of it, the richest of it, the blankest of it. Oblivion. A spec of Earth further in the distance as I drift toward another universe, toward a black hole. The tiny black hole within my eyes. Where vision daydreams in fantasy, floating in space. In the blackest black of my pupil. I wonder if anyone can see. Can see me so far away while I stand in the center of a room.
So far away.
I’ll never break through.
Never walk the soil on an earth I can’t seem to steady two feet upon. Not when all I’ve ever wanted is to fly. To float. To drift into black holes and other dimensions.
Brandi Carlile’s cover of “Hallelujah”.
Bright Eye’s, “A Perfect Sonnet”.
And I am back in Tallahassee. Back in college driving along roads, smoking pot, smoking cigarettes. Listening to this song on repeat. Just driving, like floating,
to disappear. To discover something new or lose something old. Searching aimlessly for anything to fill me with hope. At least I think it was hope. I think I was searching for hope, for answers, for a reason to keep driving. A reason to not crash the car into a telephone pole or drive straight into Lake Ella. To not feel so–
So alone.
So far away from everything.
I remember the feeling so unbelievably well.
Bright Eyes, “The Center Of The World”.
This song.
Like a scalpel slicing from sternum to groin.
Sometimes it is the most treacherous days I look back on with the fondest sentiment. The most emotionally bankrupt days. Those days have the best soundtracks, the greatest playlists. They are the days with the most beautifully layered emotion. Emotions that seem to connect people without envy. The pain, the hurt, absolute destitute of self. The floating in space. The searching for answers. The yearning to connect. It brings us together.
Because everyone knows what it feels like to fear.
What it feels like to fall.
What it feels like to sit. In a room. With no purpose, with no reason except to stew in despair. To question. With a need to claw out from wherever it is. From loneliness. A bleeding heart. Doubt.
Carole King, “So Far Away”.
The farthest distance Earth can travel from the sun is called aphelion. Once a year our planet can reach something like 94,512,904 miles from the sun during aphelion. I think humans go through aphelion far more frequently, those days we find ourselves furthest from the sun. Those days, those days have become less and less frequent, but I know they still live inside me. Those days of searching and feeling isolated, the days of bubbling sadness and dark corners. The days of looking around my apartment, a cemetery of empty bottles and white powder. When even through shut blinds sunlight shone through, illuminating the reality of my situation. Me lying on the couch surrounded by my own destruction, a home covered with thick layers of pet hair and dust. No clean clothes, hadn’t showered for days. A few last pills on the coffee table. A phone of unanswered calls. A cat crying for food, a dog barking to be walked, a litter box uncleaned for weeks. And the smell of cigarettes and shit, of a filthy apartment, smells that stained my skin. Crying because I wanted more for myself but didn’t know how to get out. Knowing there was more inside me, but too defeated to believe it. The sun, even then, creeping through blinds to graze my cheek. Too gone to notice. The sun still reaching out, hope still bleeding in.
My aphelion.
Those days.
Those days even years before. In high school. My first boyfriend ending our relationship. Fifteen years old, scared to death of being gay, wanting nothing more than to connect with another boy who felt the same way. Then to finally have it, to finally have a relationship with someone who understood. It was a sliver of self-validation, it was blind confidence. But it became my identity, my reason for being. He was a life raft I clung to with a suffocating grip. With endless calls, my constant need for approval, I quickly paved a downward spiral. When he broke it off, my world collapsed. Days of crying, nights of promiscuity, a complete loss of self. A fifteen-year-old boy struggling to breathe through tears, anti-depressants to curb the depression, the feeling of every bridge crumbling around me. Lost. A fifteen-year-old boy, lost. Filled with anger, grief and fear of himself. An overwhelming fear that he, that I, would never be like anyone else. Always the insecure Quasimodo kid with a target on his back questioning if it was worth going on.
My aphelion.
The days farthest from the sun.
The days farthest from the sun but never void of it. Even though it felt like night gripped my world and stars shut their eyes, the sun always kept arms reaching out. To inspire, to heal, to light even the darkest hours.
The High High’s, “Open Season”.
92,955,807 miles away but I still feel the warmth against my face. I’m usually only a few feet from another person, only a ‘send’ button away from millions. At the very least, one person can ignite change in one person. It is our hands reaching out from experience, from the chest center, from a place of pure emotion and intention to shine a ray of hope on someone else. The earth will always rotate around the sun, there will always be days when we are closer to it’s light and days we are further. But it never leaves us.
Hope is never lost.

Thanks for reading