- Vol. 05
- Chapter 12
A Time Like This
The stars were a surprise to me that night, when we first set up camp deep in the canyon we now called home, a sliver of the clear night sky the only scenery to behold.
“Mammy look, LOOK!” I cried out, pointing upwards, in case she could somehow missed the gleaming diamonds directly above. “Can you see? DO YOU SEE?”
Mammy, distracted, gave me one of her withering stares. “Yes, they’re stars, what about it?” she said.
Her caustic tone rendered me silent, made me feel foolish. But how was I supposed to know of something that nobody ever told me about; that she had never told me about? How was I to know that the murky city skyscape had been hiding such a delight?
Stars. What a pretty new word.
Nobody ever told me anything. Not about the stars, and certainly not about why we had suddenly up and left the city, leaving our lives and everything else behind. All I remembered was being woken in the night, being covered with a heavy blanket so that I couldn’t see a thing, and being bundled roughly into Daddy’s rarely used car (Where was Daddy, anyway?). All sounds were muffled, and remained so until we made it out to wherever we were. Mammy had ordered me to not to take off the blanket. And you always followed Mammy’s orders. So I strained my ears, trying to pick up anything at all beyond the low hum of the car’s vibrations. There were distant bangs, one or two stops where Mammy spoke in low urgent tones with voices I couldn’t quite make out, and the occasional deep heaving sigh. Was she crying?
A Time Like This
I asked the other children if they had known about the stars. Like Mammy’s, their looks were similarly withering.
Yasmin shook her head, she said, “Is that really what you’re thinking about right now? At a time like this? Of course we knew about stars. What are you, a moron?”
“What is a time like this?”
Another shake of the head before Yasmin joined her mother who called her over to help. Part of their tent had just caved in.
I decided I wanted to help my mother too, even though she never let me. She said I was still too small to be useful. But I went to her. She was lying still in our tiny tent. Her eyes were red.
“Mammy, can I help?”
She said nothing.
“Mammy, where’s Daddy?”
“Mammy, what is a time like this?”
“Please,” she said softly, her voice breaking. “Just leave me alone.”
Useless. I was useless. But by then it was twilight, and the time I had to indulge in the harsh realities of the daylight was lessening. In times like those there was nothing else for me to do but stare at the stars. Revelling in this newfound sight was all I could do until she felt I was ready to see the rest.