The mother woke up suddenly and saw the pale light on the wall. The light-bulb underneath the rake of the roof was smuggling its glim inside the darkest corner of the bedroom. She felt restless again. She knew very well what was going on but she could not find a comforting explanation for it so she rushed out of the room not minding her sleeping husband’s unfriendly mumbling.
Once in the hallway she carefully opened the front door and tiptoed out in the courtyard. It was a late summer’s night but the air was still warm and balmy. Only the severe melancholics were probably able to smell the vague, peppery pinch of autumn. With a voice as mild as possible she launched her worrying question up into the dark where the narrow terrace topped an even narrower vestibule “Are you there, dear”? “Yes, mum”, “Aren’t you coming down, is almost two in the morning”. “Just a few more minutes, mum” the daughter replied. “Be careful when you climb down the ladder” the mother said and waited without moving, looking up into the starry night. “I’ll be down in ten” the daughter finally answered.
The mother returned to bed feeling much more at ease and fell asleep almost instantly. It was something in her daughter’s voice that calmed her down. Something made her think her daughter was just as safe up on the roof as she would have been in her own bed. School will start in two weeks, the mother thought, and this will eventually end and the child, as weird as she was at times, would return to her normal teenager’s issues.
The daughter was stargazing for almost three weeks and by now she sort of knew when would her mother come out and ask her to go to bed. Every night she felt the moment of her coming more accurately than the night before yet she was always taken by surprise.
She being the cause of her mother’s sleeplessness made her sad. But not too sad. She comforted herself thinking that her mother had nothing to worry about and the interruption would last just a few minutes. But the most important thing that comforted her was that her mother would wake up to a house at peace.
At least, the daughter thought, these nights were not like those long sleepless nights when they had to witness in horror the violent fits of her drunk father.
Up on the terrace the daughter was wisening up, at least that’s how she felt, that’s what she thought even though she was incapable to articulate anything of her new knowledge. Her vocabulary was probably less evolved than it should have been for a child her age. Images were bombing her brain and her eyes were eating up the universe by night, grinding it and piling it up in the back of her mind.
But the state in which these images would appear she could not enter right away. First, her attention was caught by the street lights and rooftops she could see from the terrace. She was listening to the dogs, crickets, cars, to the slamming of windows or porches as the neighbors prepared to call it a night. The distant ding-dong of the street bell at the railroad crossing filled the darkness and, when a train would pass whistling, she would slowly whistle along with it and wonder about the meaning of the sudden warmth in her eyes that right away loaded her chest fastening her breathing.
Later she would lay down on her back. In this position it was only worth looking up where planes were coming and going with flickering and colored lights on their tails and wings. If she looked further up she could see the artificial satellites moving steadily and lofty on their trajectories. In comparison, the planes looked fussy. Gradually, she would become exhausted, lazy. She would not move her limbs and if she felt a little piece of cement detached form the terrace’s floor pressing her skin, she would rarely remove it. Her brain would start the show just about now.
Looking at the big sky was not like looking at an immense and infinite space, it was more like looking inside a dark, damp cave. She could feel the cold air coming out of it drying and cooling the moist of her eyeballs. It had a vague odor she would never be able to describe. Entering this cave needed her courage, but only for the first step. After that, she forgot everything about herself.
With the cement floor pressing her back she felt big as a planet with no trajectory but wandering freely. Most of the times all seemed like a reflection in a mirror. It seemed to her she was exploring the iris of her own eyes with a gigantic magnifying glass. The only thing that she could clearly think and utter was “All is hunger”. She was fourteen and boiling. Her days were as tormented as any other girl’s her age but at night, on the terrace she was different, somehow younger and older at the same time.
All that she learned up there that she could actually use during daytime was that the only words worth saying were NO and YES. In her case NO to everything she knew before and YES to anything she never heard of yet. As she could not come up with a satisfying conclusion to her experience on the roof she choose to try to recreate that state of mind whenever possible during daytime. She would look at everything and everybody the same way as she watched the stars, the satellites and the planes. She would eat them up with her eyes. And all she saw was hunger. The same hunger as in the skies. Not good, not bad, just plain hunger.
Even the rocks that randomly lay next to each other in a river or on a hill had some sort of tension between them and that tension was hunger. She was hoping that all that she felt and saw on the roof will crawl out from the back of her head and will eventually reach the tip of her tongue. A thousand revelations and only three words to describe them. At first she felt dumb because she had the urge to share the experience with her friends. But that disappeared on the first week – not finding the right words she just kept it all for herself and later it became something more than just another thing to brag about. It became a secret.
After another two weeks school started. The first couple of days she behaved as usually, enthusiastically catching up with her colleagues after the summer break but each day, on the way home, she encouraged herself: “Tomorrow, tomorrow I will do it”.
Finally, after another week she was there, standing in front of her class shushing her colleagues and when there finally was something one can barely call silence she said “I won’t be talking for a while, not unless I can’t avoid it, so don’t feel offended if I’m not talking to you and please don’t ask me why”. There was almost a whole second of complete silence then the class continued to enjoy the break as if nothing had happened, as if that complete moment of silence was just a coincidence – everyone was just finishing a sentence, a shriek, an action at the same time. “Did they hear me?” she asked herself but she didn’t bother to care. She kept her word for two years. The best years.