Without knowing why, I love to seek answers from the sky as if there’s someone up there, who listens.
The summer is usually hot but not damp in Beijing. The day feels like walking in an oven, while the night is much more tolerable. After getting out of the AC-chilled television control room, I felt a warm embrace in the air, like it was preheated for me. It was a quiet night in the suburbs of Beijing, a few minutes past ten. I got off from my summer internship at a sports channel. I took a few deep breaths, but the breaths became quicker and shivering. I wanted to roar from the top of my lungs but felt choked. Maybe I did roar. But my voice was absorbed into the wide-open space. The night continued its quietness.
I didn’t know where to go. I’d go anywhere except my car. I’m not ready to go home – the place that is stuffed with too many familiar things that distract me. I wanted to leave everything, even just for a brief moment. But I knew nowhere except the way from the building to the parking lot. So I turned my face to the dark sky for instruction. The void was endless. My vision blurred with tears, since I had been holding for too long trying not to leak a drop of them. I kept moving forward, facing the sky, holding the tears, regardless of the direction. I didn't care where I was, where I would be, what was ahead of me, and what was under my feet. This blindness and recklessness almost set me free from everything. I was almost expecting an accident to happen. I imagined that I stumbled by the curb. The moment that my feet would get off the ground, my body suspended in the air, all I could see was the blurry, dark sky. Losing total control, I could only give myself to fate, waiting to see what it would do to me. That would be an extreme happiness that I might only taste before death. Only having this state of mind relieved me a lot. I had been frustrated by the unsettledness, stuck in a space while time passed by without mercy. But in that moment, a strange sense of security soaked me little by little as I got lost in the dark sky. I wanted to throw myself into the infinite darkness as desperately as those who wanted to throw themselves off from the rooftop. The kind of unknown was so free, and felt almost peaceful.
I eventually got tired of walking. My 16-inch laptop was weighing me down, the strap of my tote was aching my shoulder and became too much to bear. So I stopped at the entrance of the underground parking lot, still reluctant to go down the stairs and get to my car. I sat down at the stair, stretching my feet to the third step, where I felt the most comfortable, and unburdened the tote on the ground. I didn’t care about the cleanliness of the stairs as long as I hadn't seen people step on it. Tears evaporated fast in the warm breeze. My clear vision was back but the stuttering breath and numbed fingertips still needed a while. I took another effort to breathe deeply, trying to get rid of the dizziness, but inhaling more oxygen doesn’t help when you lack carbon dioxide in your blood after crying. I knew, but I inhaled greedily anyway, just to feel alive. The heat started to feel a little stuffy without moving air. But I could feel my fingers gain back the warmth they’d lost when I clenched them into my palms.
I lifted my head up again. I saw stars, hung up there like numerous tiny grains of salt spread out on a huge tablecloth. It’s sad when thinking that the massive stars in our Milky Way Galaxy are so trivial when observed by my naked eyes on Earth. Every star is a luminous ball of gas held together by its own gravity, so vigorous and restless as its life goes. But after traveling lightyears into my limited sight, the stars lost their brightness, energy, and vitality. They became tiny light spots, powerless and fragile, only existing under certain atmospheric conditions when the world turns dark. Twinkle is too dramatic for the stars. They merely exist in a state of waiting to be mopped off in the next moment. They are both existent and non-existent, like Schrödinger's cat. Their existences are dependent, but they seemingly don’t care. The stars are the least self-conscious thing I’ve ever seen. They can never declare their existence like the Sun by spreading its brightness, its warmth, its energy, becoming indispensable and memorable to the people below. They do not fight for attention, nor even wait to be discovered. They aren’t given the talent to shine bright, but their energy that hooks whoever is looking for the beauty of smallness and quietness is enormous.
The stars are oblivious, but they are not lonely. Every single star is the same in their shared space. Larger or smaller, brighter or fainter, still a tiny white dot lies in the infinite dark. No one stands out, no one is remembered, but no one is left out. They don’t seek companions. But whether they are aware of it or not, they are never alone. There is always a star next to the other, speechless, to share everything. I bet all the stars saw a little helpless creature who sits under the plain white streetlight. Maybe also like a tiny white spot as I saw them. This creature can be called a human being, but not necessarily. I sometimes feel not human enough when I can’t think of myself as being different from other objects in the world. The idea of being the smartest and the most powerful species sounds stupid and shameful to me. I felt powerless as the grass, the flowers, the cicadas, the dust, and the stars now above me. I didn’t feel like the chosen one who will rule the world. I felt like a star. I was not alone under the starry sky that night. I found a quiet, effortless, unrequited companionship within the sea of stars. I wanted to tell them everything, but there was nothing needed to tell. Because they understand. I witnessed their existences as they witnessed mine.
The stars are too secluded in the dark, too dim to catch attention, too numerous to give names, too insignificant to remember and praise. But let me praise them for their silent, temporary, and even random accompanies for years; for their great efforts for the dim lights; for their insignificance that gives me a sense of belonging and comfort; for their beauty that is so astonishing, unforgettable, even addictive. I never tired of staring at them. The stars and the dark sky create a vacuum for me to escape.
As I kept my eyes on the stars for a long while, the black space was no longer endless, shapeless, and unreachable. The tiny dots of lights seemed to indicate the distance between me and the sky. The darkness once felt like it could absorb and digest its surroundings, making everything disappear. But the stars stayed at the surface, making a great effort not to drown. I felt the power that was hidden in their tiny bodies. The power that cannot change the world but only to sustain their existence. But it’s enough.
I wanted to stay with them. I didn’t want to walk into the city lights that cancel the light of my stars. But I knew I had to go, sooner or later, and the stars will always be there, giving me the secret companionship.
Wendy (Yuhe) Chen is from Beijing. She is a film student at Emerson College, concentrating on screenwriting and minoring in narrative nonfiction.