He reeks of cookie dough and alien paranoia, wipes his astronaut dreams on a snot crusted superman shirt as his eyes climb every star. He counts them as day slowly releases it’s grip and turns to night. “1,672…1,673…”. He used his fingers to mark his space in space and counted until his eyes were red and sore. Unable to focus anymore he drifted into sleep, dreaming of a cold shapeless desert filled with planetary wonders on top his tar beach.
The next day began with his mother’s knocks on the door to the rooftop, telling him to get ready for school. He rolled out of his lawn chair and raced down the stairs. Shower, dressed, and breakfast. He raced down a few more flights, out of the double doors, then ten blocks down to his elementary school. When his mom hugged him good-bye, there were always stars in her eyes that dripped down her cheek. Those hugs were for every teacher that would report back that her son was nothing more than a dreamer. He needed reality. Great feats and stars were beyond his grasp.
The angle of the tall, red, brown brick school building reminded him of communication towers on Mars. He was a spaceman, outfitted with a suit and gear to find his friends among the aliens. To the control homeroom before the bell rings, and he shrinks back into his regular clothes. He takes a seat at his desk and tries his best to listen to what the teacher says, but she was a creature with a ruler that didn’t believe in him. Year after year they would be there theses creature features pitted against him. He would laser blast them. He was invincible; with each of his counted stars he built a shield against their bitter remarks, stereotypical and cynical laughter.
Then came high school and those afternoons into the nights were no longer spent on his tar beach. He hung out with his friends in the streets, movies, parties. Sometimes smoke filled the nights because he no longer gazed at the sky. One by one they faltered into the sea of daunting maturity like sunset, drowning those hood boy dreams. He was at the edge overlooking his friends. The Dancer, the Artists, the Basketball star…the stars…
And there she was, his mother, sitting across from him. It had been a long time since he actually looked at her, or hugged her the way he used to. Her star drops, her wasted tears rippled through the gulf that had formed between them to reflect his night sky before morphing back into the kitchen table. He couldn’t bare her disappointment, so he strapped on his boots and reached for the moon, graduating at the top of his class. He returned to the roof, but this time, instead of counting his stars he held them in the palm of his hand.