It was nearly sunset when the comet streaked overhead, trailing ice and rock. My feet were sore after a day of hiking and eager to return home, but still I stopped and stared and wondered.
At first I thought it was a plane, but the more I watched the more certain I became. There was nothing earthly about that sight. Nothing human.
Its official name was X/-271 R9, although I did not learn that until much later, but for me it was always the comet. What use are names in the face of awe? Where is the wonder in a series of numbers and letters, dashes and dots?
I had a camera in my hand that night, a proper one with a 50mm lens. I was old fashioned that way like my mother.
She had been a photographer of some small renown in her youth and our house had always smelt of chemicals.
She would have loved to see the comet–that gorgeous flash of white across a sky of blues and pinks and purples–and would have treasured my photograph for the rest of her days.
I was too slow, however. Too busy staring. And as the comet blazed its icy way across the heavens, my camera waited in vain, resting limp and unthought of in my hand.
The thought didn’t even occur to me until I lay down in bed that night. Opportunities lost.
I never told her. She would only have been disappointed. But I still have my memories and my wonder.
And my regret.