When you look up into the night sky you think about seeing stars, when I look up into the night sky I see everything that I’ve become. My childhood was filled with nauseating amounts of candy and chocolate, endless birthday cakes and even a few black eyes. My childhood was filled with innocent disposition, a love for life, an alacrity for living. My childhood was simple, a dreamful childhood, a folly of what was to come. But despite all this, my childhood was filled with stars. No matter where you are in the world, if you look up into the night sky, you’ll see small shining dots beckoning you into a world far beyond anyone’s imagination. You begin to lose grasp of your ties to what is, and begin drifting off into a space of what was. Then before you know it, you’re stuck in a space of magnificence, you become a part of the ether. As a child, I was daftly interested in the shining light bulbs that dotted the sky above. I used to think that if I had a long enough ladder that I would be able to grab one for myself, that when I reached my hands into the night sky that I had some chance of taking a piece of this outer universe to see. Now that I’m older, I laugh at that, but now that I’m older, that notion has become grounded in reality.
Being a child meant days of innocence and ignorance. It meant being able to not know anything about the world and not get a diatribe with every idiotic decision you make. It meant having an excuse for when you touched the stove. It was still stupid, but you’re a “kid.” It’s always fine if you’re a “kid.” And when I looked up into the night sky as a kid I always saw the stars. No matter where I was or what time in the night it was, I could always rely on seeing those stars shining brightly as the cold winds grazed my face and ruffled the fields around me. I grew up as a farmer’s child, being raised in a barn and always climbing up onto the roof to watch the small wheel in front of my home spin and count the endless amount of stars that littered the night sky. At some point, I began associating the night sky with a strange smell of grass and manure, that meant that whenever the topic arose in class I always used to scrunch in my seat. I’m grateful for that association now, because now whenever I look up into the night sky, I see a canvas of nothing. I see a black sheet staring back at me, and if I stare too long, I begin to think that it really does stare back at me. It begins to envelope my mind, cause it to turn in on itself, and cause me to want to drift off into a space far beyond my current living. It takes me back to my childhood.
“What are those lights?” Was the first question I asked my father when I climbed up onto the roof and did my first session of star watching. He looked at me with the kind of smile you get when you’re able to teach someone something. The kind of smile that made you feel smart.
“They’re stars,” he said as he ruffled my hair. I looked at him in even more curiosity, “What are stars?” He used both his hands for effect and made a large motion to indicate size, “Huge bodies in space kind of like Earth that emit light. Our Sun is a star too.”
“And the moon?”
“Not the moon. The moon isn’t a star.”
“Why is that?” I remember my dad pausing for this question. Perhaps he was trying to explain it as scientifically accurate as possible, or perhaps he figured that that would only lead to more questions. But he settled on an answer that had little to do with the science of it anyway.
“Think of it this way. The stars, like our sun are very bright, right?” I nodded.
“Now, when you see the moon, what do you see?” I looked up towards the sky and traced my eyes until I saw the lightly glowing blue giant that pervaded the night sky like a sentry.
“It looks like a plate with dirt.” That inane image of the moon that I had created when I was a child was still something I held true even when I was growing up. To me the moon was nothing more than a plate on a dinner table, whilst all the stars were small particles of milk that splayed the area. Sometimes, the stars became bits of candy, and sometimes it became pieces of bread. I acculturated everything of the night sky to be like a dinner table, and because of that association, looking up at the vast horizon of the night sky wasn’t scary. But that imagery was frail, and soon enough I understood that the night sky wasn’t a dinner table, that it brought nothing but more questions. Eventually that all spilled into a sheet filled with black.
“But it doesn’t look as bright as the sun or stars right?” My dad asked. I nodded.
“The moon is just as important as the sun, and they may seem like the same thing, but the moon is more like a silent knight, watching over his people in the dark, and the sun is the king, giving his presence known to his people in the day. The stars, are smaller kings, all governing smaller kingdoms far away, but still making their presence known to us, telling us that one day we may be able to reach them, that we may be able to use them. And the knight, the moon, is with the other far away kings because the knight will one day bring us to them. That’s why even though he’s silently watching over us, he still glows, to make sure we know he’s there.” Looking back on that now, his analogy made sense. It made too much sense, and back then, when he told me all of that, I placed every bit of it within the fairy tales I knew. That much made me stop asking questions, but I knew that my father was just using euphemism to make me quiet. It was probably what made me think I could someday reach up and grab them, reach up into the night sky, into the country and grab a king, take it for my own, and tell him to bring me to a faraway kingdom. Though, growing up, that suddenly became a grounded reality.
I left the country side to move into the city. That was for university. The biggest transition for me wasn’t the fact that I now had to live away from my parents, that I had to sustain a life all for myself. The biggest transition for me was not being able to see the stars anymore. When I had moved into my room in the university, the very first thing I did was walk off onto my roof and look up into the sky. Below me were people walking to and fro from the dorms, some had large bags, and others were just enjoying a quiet night smoke. But when I looked up into the night sky, I couldn’t see the stars. They were missing, and the night sky was empty. It was almost as if someone had reached their hands up and took each star away from the country known as the night sky. It was almost as if they had never existed in the first place, like the stars were just painted on as a fabrication of an expansive universe. I looked for as long as I could, trying to find a star, any star. It wasn’t until I got off campus and found a relatively remote area near the university filled with trees and moss that I was finally able to see the stars. The city was too much for me, too different from what I was used to. For the entirety of that part of my life, I always cursed the city for hiding the stars. In my mind, they were still kingdoms, still kings waiting for us to find them and to reach up to them. In my mind, I chose to refuse everything of this world, and I wanted to reject the world for what it was. I wanted everything to be just as it was in my fairy tales, just as it was in a society devoid of capitalism and misanthropy. But, after living the latter half of my life in the city, I began to realize that apathy became a drug that the people were buying. The night sky then became a blank canvas that threatened to send me into an egregious craze. And what brought me back, was thinking back to my days of being a child.
But I never returned to the country. I kept pushing forward, trying to exact some kind of pseudo sense of pride and justice that a person like myself had. I wanted to be more than what anyone would think I could become. I wanted a ladder large enough to reach out and grab a part of the universe with. I wanted to take a piece of the world for myself, and in doing so, I became like the blank night sky. My father used to tell me that those who bit off more than they could chew would inevitably choke. I thought it was an absurd didactic expression. But now, I’ve come to know what he really meant. And even so, it’s already too late for me to go back on chewing too much than I could handle. I’ve already watched as all my attempts of trying to reach for the stars, of reaching for things millions of miles and much too large for me to handle fail. Now that I’m here, watching the night sky somewhere in the city, living in my decrepit apartment as I handle a pint of liquor and a smoke in my left, I can see that the night sky is empty. I can see with great certainty that the path I decided to choose led me to a sky filled with nothingness. I can never reach for things out of my grasp, and no matter how long I build my ladder, if it doesn’t have any meaning, any passion or any base, I won’t be able to grab anything. No matter how hard I try to be ostentatious to a group of uncaring people, it will only just be that, a sad display. And so I say with great certainty, that the night sky now is a perfect replication of who I have become. Nothing.