It was the night that the stars returned and the first person to see them was Oskar Abebi. From his vantage point on the pavement, lying with his back flat on the street called Yoruba, he recognized the constellation. “The Hunter…” he whispered to no one in particular. The name escaped his bloodied lips as by compulsion. The giveaway was the line of three stars that made up the Hunter’s belt. From there he could trace the stars that hinted at the legs, then the outstretched arm and the club.
It was a Friday night and the traffic of shoppers and passers-by on Temple Market was starting to pick up. Oskar desperately wished one of them would stop by to help him up so he could share his discovery. But they all avoided him and each other studiously. They walked around him as they zipped past in all directions. One or two even stepped over his legs when they found no other path through.
Oskar wobbled to his feet. All the while his gaze remained up, his jaw slack as more pinpoints of light appeared in the sky. Over there: the Hero. And over there: the Twins. And over there: the Bear. And over there: the Lover. Despite himself, despite his cracked skull, Oskar laughed.
“Do you see? Do you see?” He pointed a crooked finger up at the sky. When no one paid him any heed, he broke taboo and grabbed the nearest passer-by the sleeve of her pleather coat. She yelped, then hissed and glared at him. “Look!” he insisted, jabbing his finger upwards. “Stars!”
The last time he had seen stars he was a boy. How long ago was that? Forty years? Fifty? It was on Ye-Ye’s farm, where they had electric lights only three hours each night and so there was nothing to do but look up at the sky and tell stories. Then came the city, and the stars were drowned in neon, glass, and steel, stabbing at the heavens as if to keep them at bay.
“Stars!” he repeated to the woman. His insistence finally made her look up. A few others, puzzled by the commotion, paused in their steps and did the same.
The stars were growing brighter by the minute. They pierced through the haze of artificial light of the city. More and more constellations became apparent. Oskar laughed giddily. “The Bull!” “The Lion!” “The Maiden!” “Look! Don’t you see?” “There! The Sisters!”
Those who paused followed his finger as he pointed, trying to make out the shapes. Then one of them, a young man wearing a rebreather cowl, broke the spell when he shrugged and walked on, disappeared into the crowd flowing into Yoruba East. The others followed suit, one by one at first, then in staggered groups, until the bustle was as it was before.
The woman wrenched her arm free and called Oskar a rude name as she walked hurriedly away.
“Stars…” the old man said again, but weakly. They were very bright now, so bright, you could almost feel their heat. The soup of humanity that gathered around Temple Market on Friday evening continued to thicken, and now people were jostling each other at the elbows and occasionally stepping on each other’s toes.
“Stars…” the old man said, one last time. Then he too was swallowed by the market.
Dom is a project manager of a small software development team in Davao.