The word strikes me as I wait alone by the windowsill. The midnight fog is already starting to roll in, covering the streets of Manhattan.
Alone, like the single star in the middle of the vast sky.
I consider writing a poem about the star, maybe even talking to it. But I shut those thoughts down. I shut off any remnant of my peculiarity.
“Only fools talk to stars,” Someone once told me, then they’d go on and on about how the whole world revolves around them.
But Mom did.
She talked to stars, she talked to the sky. And she listened to it too.
“Listen Astra, you can hear the planets singing,” She used to say in that wispy voice of hers.
When I listened, I could hear the soulful whispers and trills.
I still remember the day I sat down next to my Father on the porch of our old house. His hands were covered in grease from a full day at the factory. His face was dusted with dirt, even his light colored hair was dyed black from the grease and soot.
I can hear my Father’s voice echoing in my mind, “Amazing, isn’t it?”
“What’s amazing?” I replied.
“The sky, the stars, the planets. Everything, it’s magnificent.”
I nod even though I don’t understand.
“You know, you have a gift. You can speak to the sky,” He said, taking my hand in his huge, calloused palms. Then he looked straight up at the sky. And I did too.
I lean on the wall and tuck my knees next to my chest. Tears blur my vision.
Stop, I order myself.
Stop being a baby.
But something inside of me is triggered and the tears overflow. They carve rivers in my cheeks. The cheeks Mom used to pinch when she used to sing to me. They drip off my chin and onto my shirt. I try to rub the tears off of my shirt in vain. I wrap my hands around my shoulders.
Eventually I give up, I let my hands fall to my side and let the rest of my tears drip down my face.
I look down at the creaking wood floor. I see the dark shadow of a person at the bottom of the door. I hold my breath, my hiccupy shudders are quieted to small whimpers.
I know people who have already been evicted for making a ruckus in the hallway. I can’t let that happen to me and Father. I doubt he’s allowed to leave me alone here anyway. This is the only apartment we can afford, we spent all our savings on stupid medical bills.
The footsteps recede and I relax a little.
“I’m hungry,” I whisper to myself.
I’ve always had a bad habit of speaking to myself. Before, I would always talk to my Mom. But now, I like to imagine she’s always with me, in the same room, talking back to me.
I step off of the window sill and make my way to the kitchen. It’s a small sink and a microwave. My Father has set up a pile of blankets in the corner he sleeps on. We usually take turns, one person sleeps in the kitchen, the other person sleeps on the couch. The couch isn’t as comfy as you might think. The springs are broken and it’s like sleeping on concrete, the couch permanently smells like old lady and cheap perfume. The owners rented this room for cheap because there’s no oven or hot water. My bare feet are cold against the tiles. Each step sends spikes of cold up the palms of my feet.
I know there’s no food here, Father’s paycheck hasn’t come in yet. Even knowing this, I still rummage through the cabinet. It takes about three seconds for me to open the door and stare aimlessly at the empty, dusty space.
The dark cabinet reminded me of the dark night sky. The shiny metal screws reflected off of the dim lights, shining like stars in the sky. My Mom used to tell me stories about stars, planets and The Nebula.
She used to tell me that there were trillions of dead stars in the universe. I didn’t believe her then, but I believe her now.
Then all of a sudden, I’m eight years old again, sitting on the window sill, back in the blue house we used to have…
She said,” If you sing softly enough, the stars could hear you. I used to respond with the same old reply.
“If you sing softly, how will the stars hear you?”
Then she would smile down at me and delicately laugh. “They can hear you, Moondust.”
Mom would gingerly tap my nose with her finger.
“But what if they can’t, even if I’m singing softly?” I asked, leaning forward so my nose could touch the glass.
She merely laughed again. I loved her laugh. It was gentle and made you feel warm and tingly. Sometimes, she laughed enough, she would start making small snorting noises. She would slap her hand on her thigh and her face would turn red.
“The day the stars stop listening, is the day I die.”
She said this with a grin on her face. But somehow I know she was serious.
I knew she meant this as a warning. Even her stormy eyes looked pleading in the moonlight. What I couldn’t understand was why she didn’t tell me straight then and there that day would come so soon. I wish she would have just told me the truth, or that she would just stay quiet and not tell me this at all.
I close the cabinet door and stand up. I feel myself walking towards the sink, towards the window. The glass looks like someone rubbed water all over it.
Out of nowhere, I start humming. I don’t remember all of the words, but I try to hum the beat.
I stare up at the blinking stars.
I wait for the stars to send me a signal. To send me a sign they can hear me.
In the inky canvas, two stars begin to align.
“What?!” I whisper. I blink.
Another star follows the line.
Then… two others move across the sky to the outer edges.
An X. I realize.
“What does it mean?” I ask.
I know the answer, I’ve heard it hundreds of times in Mom’s stories.
“Look for the X, Moondust.”
I stare at the constellation.
The world was about to burn.