It was Sunday, November 18th and we were watching the Leonids
burn across the heavens. My friends Kaew, Nim, Pang, Pui and I had spread out a woven-plastic mat where we lay watching the sky.
After ninety minutes or so we started to get ready to go. As the others folded up the mat and collected items, Pui and I sat on the barrier at the side of the road. We looked at the stars together and she asked me if I knew anything about them. I pointed to Orion
"Well, I know that's one's Orion... 'the hunter'..."
I lowered my hand and she told me a story from her youth in Burma
There was once a young man and woman who were very much in love. Their names were Cohn-sawn-law and Nahn-ooh-bean. They lived in the same village and spent as much time with each other as possible. But Cohn-sawn-law's stepmother didn't like them together and tried to drive them apart. Talking with her was fruitless so in the end Cohn-sawn-law and Nahn-ooh-bean thought it best to move together to another village.
Nahn-ooh-bean soon became pregnant and, although the two were not yet married, they were very happy and looked forward to raising a child together.
Shortly thereafter, Cohn-sawn-law received a message from his stepmother. It seemed that she had had a change of heartplease come back, his stepmother pleaded. The couple returned, but the stepmother hadn't changed at all. Still determined to separate the two, she sent Cohn-sawn-law off on a long business journey.
Cohn-sawn-law was gone for several months and Nahn-ooh-bean missed him terribly. As the months dragged on she become very sad and weak. Sadly, she miscarried their baby and this proved too much for hershe died of a broken heart.
Cohn-sawn-law returned to the village the next morning and heard of the deaths. He rushed to Nahn-ooh-beans parent's house and held her lifeless body to his. Through tears he said to her
"I love you... I love you so much that I will follow you so we can be together..."
As the words finish leaving his mouth he, too, died of heartbreak.
Friends of the couple built a funeral pyre and lay the two next to each other on it. As the smoke from their bodies rose into the blue-black sky two groups of stars started to appear. Cohn-sawn-law and Nahn-ooh-beantogether at last, in the night sky, forever.
While their friends weren't looking Cohn-sawn-law's stepmother quickly approached the pyre. Taking a three-segmented piece of bamboo she placed it between the couple. As the smoke from the bamboo rose, it's three segments become three stars that to this day separate the two lovers.
Pui is now back in Burma, but I think of her whenever I look upon the night sky.
She changed my stars.