Have you ever wondered why emotions somehow have to be relatively connected, just to be felt properly? It’s like visible light spectrum, from violet to red, progress slowly, each has a name, which you recognize the color. What if you can pluck blue or orange out of the spectrum — just for the sake of science fiction to presume this possibility — could you still call purple by “purple” or red by “red?”
Sadness and happiness might be on either end of emotion spectrum as the purple and red, long way apart. Whether positive or negative, that doesn’t matter, you just need them all line up. The real problem is not having negative emotions, but knowing there is a chunk missing, you know that, every bone in your body, every bit of blood in your veins, every hair on your skin is telling you, only not what exactly.
Without sadness, can you still tell happiness?
“Oh, ain’t you getting all comfy and warm up there?” Kate says with her head poking out of window, glancing at me briefly. She has let her hair down, which indicate a wind-free night, as they hang still about her. I’ve forgot she used to wear a long hair, still does, though they seem even longer than before as I could remember. I see her less since the retirements of my parents.
I can’t really tell if she was sarcastic or not, but I do feel warm with my favorite blanket. She is climbing out of window cautiously. Grasping the window frame, stepping on the window ledge, only half of foot length to walk on, moving towards me one step at a time. Peeking down, she wishes she didn’t. An attic window opening on a pitched roof, not awfully steep, but one tiny mistake step or a careless slip, you fall down two floors in just a second or two. A broken limb, only if you are lucky.
Deep breathing, one more step, glancing down over her shoulder, regretting again. Caught me staring, quickly evading to conceal the tremendous fear that is eating her alive. Frankly speaking, though I shouldn’t feel this way as good ol’ brother, but I find this situation is rather amusing.
Kate is always the big sister to me, strong and independent since the day I know her, looking after her younger siblings, four in total, whenever my parents were busy, making herself the role model for us.
I couldn’t recall when the last time she has ever showed her weakness. In this case, that would be the height. Praying, probably with a few inaudible curse words, finally, she got through it.
“What?” Kate asks defensively as she finally get on all fours on the sloped roof, pretending that she is not catching up her breath.
Her lips are dry, face pale, arms shaking, couldn’t really tell if that’s by the trip on the edge or the cold air. Wait, yes, I can, it’s to be the trip.
“Nothing,” I lie with a shake of head to boost up the credibility.
“Scoot over, would you?”
“Hey, it’s freaking cold.”
She invited herself to share my blanket, which has been fending off the cold temperature in a typical night of autumn. Cold, but not too much, however, enough to let you sneeze and look like Rudolph for a week, and being declared as a mobile biological hazard. Be Warned, Stay Away!
“Ouch, that hurts!” I gasp when a hard object pressing on my leg.
“Sorry,” she apologizes and takes off the holster.
“Better not let mom see it,” I advise unnecessarily.
No one in the right mind would come here like us. Our mother has a no weapon at home policy, at least, locked in safe first thing come into the house.
“Tell you what, if you don’t tell, I don’t tell, either. Deal?”
Snuggling up for warmth under that blanket which is barely enough for two people. Things peacefully quiet down again as before she bulged in as if she owned this roof and blanket. My body temperature is finally restored from Antarctica to Hello Miami degree.
I can feel her warm breath on my neck, that’s kind of annoying, because I know she is staring at me. I swear that I could almost see her big, curious, blue eyes intensively looking at me like laser beams, burning my skin red and hot, waiting for me to acknowledge and she knows she’s got my nerves. It’s only the matter of time.
“What?” I asks with a hint of annoyed voice.
I must swear again, she picks that up like a fine-tuned computer detection algorithm, and declares a victory with a giggle. Sometimes, I wonder if she really is my sister who is a grown-up. Maybe that’s a good thing, having a serious job, but still has a heart of child.
We used to play games, one of them was trying to make another to laugh before you by any means. I never won, guess that’s why I don’t like her staring, because she could always make the laughter out of my triple-locked lips. Her stare means me losing, no ones likes being a loser every single time.
“Whatcha lookin’ at?” she asks curiously, closing to look where I was looking while still trying to suppress uncontrollable giggling.
Pointing at the sky, just above the horizon, at a star. She follows the direction of my hand, then giggle dies down as she looking at that star. A single, sole star blinking at us from a far distance.
“That’s Fomalhaut, in the constellation Piscis Austrinus, approximately 25 light-years away. It’s also known as ‘the mouth of the Southern Fish,’ or, my favorite, as ‘the Lonely Star of Autumn.’”
Living on a hill top, in a town with a small population has a nice benefit, light pollution is minimum. Well, sloped roof and attic bedroom also help, which probably is the reason I want to sleep in attic.
“Didn’t know you are interested in constellation,” she sounds surprised as learning that her baby brother knows a bit of stargazing, even has a favorite star. She can tell, because she can hear in my voice.
We lie there, watching in silence. I can’t remember why I like or when the first time I noticed the beauty of the sky, to me, it is enticing with mystery. You can see them, but they are just too far away and realistically unreachable.
I spent quite fair amount of time on this very same spot, watching stars until I fell asleep. Sometimes, I wondered if we, human, can really travel to see other stars or planets at close distance. Maybe someday, probably not in my life time, but I could still dream, couldn’t I?
“Why do you want to cook?” she asks quietly.
Finally popping the question of why risking herself to walk on roof dangerously, brought me out of gazing my favorite star.
Just a few hours ago, we were having a Thanksgiving dinner at our house with many relatives. My father’s siblings, and their families, the house was packed. It was a lovely evening at first, but then my cousin asked me if I work, who, by the way, is already a father of two teenagers.
Tried to answer to him only and surely I did, I knew I had to keep it quiet, but he was surprised as everyone else when they learned I work part-time a few times a week after school as a cook at a diner of our town. Mom was the only person knew about the job before.
That was shortly before dad’s verbal disapproval. He demanded me to quit or find a better job if I really want to earn extra cash. I don’t know why I defended that job and why he didn’t like an honest earning job.
“Just a temporary job, certainly I wouldn’t want to cook forever. Or maybe I do? Celebrity chef on reality show? The famous Chef Bryson captured the essences of several exotic ingredients using his unique and mind-blowing techniques.”
“Yeah, right, maybe you should write, that might easier to make a couple of pennies more.”
We both joked about, reminding me of some hilarious moments that I had with Kate. She was always a fun person, maybe that’s because I was a young boy, but now I have grown up a bit, we are still having a couple of good laugh.
“You know he has expectation for you, to hell all of us, actually. I remember when I told him my job, we had a month of cold war. Anyway, you are a straight-A student and probably the smartest guy I have known, definitely the smart ass in the family. You can get a much better part-time job.”
I don’t respond, even I understand her point completely, maybe too much. Expectation sometimes is a huge burden to me, whether I can make it or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s like living in other’s life, a life they lay out for me, a life they want me to have.
“Do you feel lonely? The reason you like this star?” she asks.
I sigh. Never put too much of thought about that, she could be right, it could be the reason why I spent many nights on the roof just to see it alone in the sky.
“Have you ever had a feeling? That you don’t belong, something is missing, a critical part of your life is somewhat unknown or hidden from you? This job is something I want to see if that is the one missing, so to speak. I know he loves me very much, but there were times I felt he is so distanced for some reason. It’s like we were strangers. Heck, not just him, some in family. I, never mind.”
“Did mom say something to you?” she asks.
“What thing?” I turn to look at her, but she looks away.
“Nothing,” she lies.
“Some say moon is special because it has magical powers. You wouldn’t feel lonely when you look up at it, because you know someone else who you care so much is also looking at the very same moon. Lonely Star, when you now look at it, you will know I am looking at it. Don’t feel left out, your big sister is always here for you.”
She grabs my hand, offering some sort of comforting, kissing me on the back of my hand. I feel I was six again, then she starts to hum.
“Twinkle, twinkle, little star,” she starts and repeats the same line over and over again.
‘Oh, boy, this isn’t happening, is it?’ I thought to myself. She is staring at me again, wanting me to sing with her. Now I really feel like a six-year-old again. The very same song, she would sing with me when I was little, I loved it, but that’s when you were a little boy.
“Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky,” I sing under her extreme pressure.
I can’t be seen singing this song with my sister, my image would be torn to nothing if anyone knows. Thank god, it’s almost midnight, no one is out there and awake but us.
The Lonely Star seems to glow brighter as we sing, but that has to be just my imagination. We enjoy the silence again, and my mood has swung to a happier place, but not Kate. She starts to sob all of a sudden.
“You are all grown up, soon you will meet a girl, fall in love, get married, have kids, and then and then,” she mumbles on her words.
‘What on Earth is going on with her?’ I thought, she isn’t drunk for sure. She doesn’t drink stronger than beers and she had none at dinner.
She sounded like a mother, in a way, she was like my second mom. She babysat me a lot of time before our parents’ retirements, tucking me into bed whenever she came home. Strangely, that was only a few years ago, but it feels like long time ago. We kids do grow up fast, don’t we?
Back to the troubling reality in hand. How great, the first girl I made crying is my own sister. I hold her as a good brother can ever be, patting her back to calm her down.
“Sorry, I am embarrassing myself.”
Looking away and wiping away the tears, pulling herself together. Not sure what that was all about, what triggered her emotional side, quiet an interesting night so far.
“Don’t worry, I will arrange a sis-bro dance at my wedding after mother-son dancing, just for you, my favorite, dearest big sister. I don’t think mom would be happy if you want to steal her spot,” I joke.
“Wedding, huh? You met a girl, didn’t you? Who is she? You know you can tell me anything,” she is now making up some funny ideas in her own mind. Next, she would probably do a full background check on this, quote-unquote, girl.
“You know dad is still waiting his dance with you,” I say after her merciless interrogation about the imaginary girlfriend she thought I have.
That’s the pretty lowest move I could ever do to her. It’s like spread salt on her wound. That’s a story before I could even write my name, story I only heard from my other siblings, and was warned not to mention before Kate.
Just before I am about to apologize, a sharp, high pitch voice breaks the quiet night, piercing through the window.
“Are you two trying to give me a heart attack? Get back into house already. Slowly and safely!”
Quickly crawling back carefully as ordered, with a few chuckles between us. I think tonight turns out not too bad at all. Gazing the stars with my sister and getting scolded by our mother. Not bad at all, indeed.
Hiding the pistol behind her back using me blocking mom’s light of sight, after all, she had been a child. By that skillful stealth strategy, gotta have done this once or twice in her time as a kid.
“Kate, you should know better, wait a second, what’s that in your hand? Is that your gun?”
Mother will always be a mother, kids always kids. We might be having lectures for upcoming days, by we, I meant me since I am the only child still living at home. But for now, mom would talk unstoppable on their way downstairs, whatever she is talking about, that comes in left ear and out through right.
“Busted!” I grin at Kate.