A sleepy town isn’t enough for dreams. On nights like this, it strangles me, constricts around me, squeezes out every last breath in clouds of white. Nightlife here is flickering fluorescent signs with two letters missing, is silhouettes drowning in debt and doubt, is crickets and their nighttime symphonies. My own house is already rocking with my parents' staggered breaths, and I am tired of small town lethargy. I want New York, want horns blaring and headlights blurring and the highway as a parking lot. I want Paris, want string light cafés scented with dark roast, butter, and orange blossom perfume. I want Los Angeles, want neon signs and flashing lights and midnight film premiers. I want, I want, I want.
But there isn’t a want for the stars here. Not yet ready to surrender my night, I step out into my backyard, at once cast under milky luminescence. I lie flat on the unkempt grass, ignore the drops of dew just beginning to seep into my clothes. Silhouettes of oak trees loom beneath shimmering dots, the shadows grounding the stars. I can’t make out any of the constellations overhead, not even the famous ones like Orion or the zodiac. My thoughts wax poetic around the waning moon, and I prefer to believe that there isn’t anything written in the stars.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a star. My parents like to tell me about my first grade musical, a reenactment of The Three Little Pigs. Cast as the mother pig, I performed a solo at centerstage, shorter than my trio of offspring peeking up behind me. While all of the other little kids cowered from the microphone, I adjusted the stand so that I could belt right in.
A decade later, I don’t know what it is to shine anymore. The last time I even thought about being on stage was freshman year of high school, looking at an audition poster for Cats. By then, I had already grown up and grown out, felt more stout pig than slender feline. That day, I dimmed my childhood dream, the one I wished for when I still colored the stars yellow, thick crayon streaks flying past the outlines. Now, gazing up at the sky, I see the stars as they appear to me now: small, delicate, and white.
But I know, if only it were possible to get near, I would see those fixed points stretch into heavenly bodies: massive, burning, and spectral. From down here, each pinprick of light lingers distant and unreachable. I close my eyes and try to imagine the view from the window of a skyscraper, my head that much closer to the stars, my hands pressed against glass that glows. But then I remember that there is light pollution in the city, that sometimes, we lose sight of our nature. Staring upward, I drink in the starlight while it is still brimming in this town. I trace shapes into the sky myself, stitch each speck into a tapestry of new dreams.
Writing: Sandra Chen
Music: Alan Shen
Art: Katherine Xiong