Tonight she’s in a park, sprawled out on her back under the shelter of a scratched-up willow tree. Tomorrow she’ll be here too, maybe, if no one bothers her. But the next day, surely, it’ll be under the awning of some boarded-up shop, or a bench at some park across town, assuming she’s willing to dip into her slowly dwindling wad of cash to take the bus that would get her there.
But tonight all she can think of is the sky—no tomorrow, no day after, no bus ride across town. It’s all now. It’s all of the stars and the swirls of smog mixed up in that big, big, universe. Maybe there’s a Being up there, maybe not. Maybe that’s where we all go once we die. Maybe not. Those stars do tell a lot of maybe. She wonders whether they’ll tell her yes or no anytime soon, whether anything in this lifetime is a straight yes or no in the first place, ‘cus maybe we’re all just waiting for our maybes to play out, while we rest here, under that sky like a blanket above us.
She sinks in deeper into the dirt, wincing as pine needles poke into her thin T-shirt.
Many would hate to be in her place: you know, the dew that makes her shiver in the early light; the way she’s spent the past three nights out and about, no bed, no shower, subsisting on a Coke and one cheap meal a day; the hot, humid summer days that make her sweat like crazy; the rats that sometimes scurry near the edges of her grass-stained blanket when she’s resting at night.
She knows that this kind of life is not sustainable, of course, nor would she want to keep it up for long. In a couple weeks, when the summer comes to a close, she’ll find a job, find somewhere to wash up. But for now, it feels good.
Back home, when her mom told her she’d have to leave, after she caught her with a girl—she left. No apologies, no arguments. Just scooped up the box under her bed where she’d stashed a load of cash since she was young, and left. Didn’t even leave a note. It was almost reassuring to know that she wasn’t the only one who wanted herself out. It was a mutual decision. That kind of life back home, with mom always on her toes, and never feeling like she fit in with anyone else, it wasn’t for her.
This is better, for now at least —’till her savings run out in a week or so’s time. Then she’ll get a job, start her life. It would have been useless staying at home after all, considering that she’ll be done with school in a year, and would then have to start working full-time anyway. Why not start early, with nothing but her own rules to live by? No need to care about whether it’s a boy or a girl she’s fancying. No need to report to her mom exactly what time she’ll be home, exactly where she’s going. No need to read up on people of the past who don’t even matter now anyways, for the sake of teachers who don’t care. Right now she’s just lingering, loitering. It may sound real uncomfortable, but she likes it.
So here she is. This park, two towns away from her mom, from school, from that girl, from the other guys and girls of her past: merely a blur of legs and favorite songs and laughter and stolen kisses and faces she can barely recall. She inhales deeply, letting all those memories whirl around like the smoke dancing in her mind, toxic and captivating. Then she exhales, clearing her mind and focusing on all of the feelings of this place right here. What it feels like, smells like, tastes like, to be resting here in this night, in this air, under this sky. Tonight, it’s all stars, shadows, strange voices, chilly air, and the smell of grass and dirt.
Sometimes, on nights like these, she thinks she feels some sort of odd feeling creep up, strange, yet comfortable. Her belly feels warm, and the corners of her lips have involuntarily turned up just so. It’s weird, feeling this indescribable feeling of now in the unluckiest, unfamiliar, unusual of places.
She looks up at the sky. Stars dotted, somewhat faded by the distant city lights, but they’re there. She sees them. She wonders whether the stars hold the answers to all of her maybes. She inhales, exhales, lets it all go, and just lies there with this feeling inside of her, strange and delightful at the same time.