A friend once told me that stars flicker, while satellites don’t. That’s how you tell them apart.
I set out on my late night walk. An aimless stroll. A habit I picked up in junior high to ease the mind, with the added bonus of somewhat exercising the body. One faint glimmer tries to make itself known amidst the pitch black.
The warm yellow glare of the city rejects the aid of the rest.
There was a nearby bridge running across the 4-lane highway. Along the way was a quiet section of town, noticeably darker that the other four roads I could’ve taken. Colonial buildings, the backs of parking lots, a school and a deserted construction site. I skipped along with earphones in, iPhone set to play the entire discography of my old friend, Moby, on shuffle.
I stopped on a whim, interested in a pair of convex traffic mirrors that lay at the centre of a 3-way street.
“Who would use you?” I said to the mirror.
It distorted the world around me. My head grossly disproportionate with the rest of my body, as I leaned ever closer.
“No one ever comes through here.”
The mirror said nothing.
Well of course it didn’t. Should it have done otherwise I would’ve pissed myself on the spot and sprinted back home.
A shirtless old man appeared from one of the narrow alleyways, the only alleyway bathed in the same yellow warmth of the city behind me by street lamps every five paces. Why they built so many lights on this one narrow road while leaving the rest relatively dark I’d never know.
The old man carried with him a cart of empty cardboard boxes and one huge black plastic suitcase. It could’ve easily been blue, or green, or purple. The sickly lighting only allows for shades of yellow.
I said nothing to the old man.
He started rummaging through his probably-black suitcase and took out a bottle of mosquito repellant, and started to apply it all over his still-shirtless body. It dawned on me that this man was homeless, and this lonely intersection would be his bedroom for tonight.
He took out a cigarette and started smoking.
Would’ve gotten him a drink or something, but I was a long ways away from a vending machine or a coffee joint.
I lifted both arms up like wings, and skipped along onto the bridge.
The comforting sound of passing cars filled the air. I rested my head on the cold metal railings. My heart started racing for no apparent reason. The chilling wind robbed me of my breath, until I backed away.
I checked my pulse.
The cars were mostly taxis. Midnight-ish. The last bus passed by, along with the occasional truck and motorcycle. I could peek at the driver’s seat from above, briefly lit by the lights along the bridge. Everyone wore seat belts. And work shirts. I couldn’t see their heads. None of them looked up back at me.
I turned to the other side. There was a security camera pointing downward to the passing cars.
I wanted to stretch my hands over the rails and wave hello to the camera. I quaked in my red flip-flips at just the thought of it, and backed away.
The cars rushed past. Its strangely hypnotic rumble overtook the whispers of ‘The Sky is Broken’. I didn’t bother to turn up the volume. One after another they ascend to the overpass ahead and disappeared.
I flew back down, returning to a more familiar route. The lights assault my eyes. They adjust, and I find myself on the way to the bus stop I usually take to get to my old place.
By now the old man had fallen asleep, soundly under the one-starred sky, no longer shirtless.
I considered again the idea of buying him a drink. Perhaps I could leave him a canned drink with a note, so he doesn’t mistake it as litter. A quick tap of my right pant pocket tells me that’s not possible.
There was a sign along the narrow sidewalk after the bus stop.
“Appeal for witnesses. Fatal accident.”
I stopped to take a picture, and mourned for the death of nobody.
Before reaching home I thought about the night’s sequence of events, and the thoughts I had in-between. There was much to consider, but nothing really needed to be.
That one star will flicker all through the night, until the sun forces it to retire. Come nightfall tomorrow, it will return, and flicker all the same.