25,000 Stars Under the Sky

In this twilight, looking out from the 4th floor verandah of my university, across the plaza below. A rare rainy season sunset performance, first purples, then reds. Left and right of the plaza two playgrounds. Left maybe 25 teenagers playing soccer on the tarmac/concrete. Right it’s older or college kids playing basketball, watched by a throng of younger kids. In a little piece of adjoining parking lot 5 itty bitty leaping kids play soccer with sandals for goalposts and a ball that’s about half as big as them. Between the plaza and the basketball is a mosque, and behind the mosque another makeshift grassy soccer pitch full of kids in uniforms. Below me by the plaza boys and girls pluck branches from trees for some other game. In the plaza, 3 little kids chase each other around the fountain with a well-used ball. I could dwell on (and would have before Christmas) details such as the complete absence of shoes on the kids playing soccer in the playground to the left, of women save for the pair plucking twigs, of even scraps of strings on the basketball hoops. There’s never been any soap or hot water in the University bathrooms. But what’s the point? The clock in my classroom runs counter-clockwise, and the numbers on its face are reversed. I’ve almost got it figured out; in other words, I can almost tell time in two directions. A little like looking up at the stars over Bali, feeling that warmth and connectedness I’ve always felt looking up at a sky full of stars, yet not quite the same warmth, because they aren’t the same stars. They are new stars. Like watching the weather forecast, and the map of the world isn’t the map of the North Atlantic or the Northern Hemisphere anymore. It’s still the same weather, and the same world, but it’s the New World…It’s far more constructive to absorb the happy sounds coming from 5 directions. Laughter and excited shouts, an eager air. No players acting tough or macho, no do-rags and bulging biceps and hard stares and $200 sports shoes. Its summer everyday and nothing feels old. I remember playing touch football in the front yard of our house in Tulsa when I was six or seven, trying to learn the game in twilights like this from the kid across the street, and getting brought down every time I tried.


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