I don’t feel like a party so I borrow someone’s parka and go out to the garage with Kafka’s The Blue Octavo Notebooks tucked into my jeans. Lately, it’s all I can read. Out on the driveway I see some girls playing Double-Dutch in the setting sun. I wave at the mother across the street and motion to her that I’ve got the girls covered. She waves back and goes into the house. It’s amazing how trustworthy people are out here. I could be anyone. I light a spliff and watch the treetops burn orange. The telephone wires and TV antennas are in silhouette. I relax into the rhythm of the ropes slapping the ground. Behind me, in the house, New Order is playing:
“I lived my life in a valley, I lived my life on a hill
I lived my life on alcohol, I lived my life on pills…”
Suddenly one of the girls shouts and points up to the sky. The jumper stops jumping and the rope turners drop the ropes. They slink around on the driveway like live snakes before becoming still.
“What is it, what’s the matter?” I run over and look up.
“What? What?” I demand.
Then I see it. Something burns brightly in the sky above our heads. An aluminum colored curl hangs out of the dark blue twilight, as silent and gray as a ghost. My mind immediately races through the possibilities: a trick of the light…a plane…a meteor or some other astronomical event. None of these seem to fit the apparition that we’re seeing. It’s happening! I scream out inside my head, but I don’t know what. There’s something oddly familiar about the shape. I feel a fear in my chest—the fear of being watched, but as the lone adult in the front yard, I quickly suppress it. The curl vanishes in the next instant, as though brushed away by an invisible hand. A few seconds pass before the girls turn to me, pigtails and puffy jackets, eyes wide and blinking.
“What was that?” they want to know. “In the sky. What was it?”
“That? Oh, that was nothing, just a satellite,” I say, quickly scanning the street to see if their was another adult in view. There were no moving shapes among the mailboxes, trashcans and parked cars—no one to run over to and scream, “Did you see that? What the fuck!”
“Yeah, we put satellites way up there in the sky, so they can take pictures and send pictures back. For TV.”
“We have a satellite dish,” a buck-toothed red head announced.
“See? There you go. No big deal.”
“We have 171 channels.”
“Really? That’s great. But I bet sometimes you still can’t find anything to watch?”
I joked around with the kids for a little longer—laughing with them made me feel better too. But I wanted to get inside. It was dark and cold and the street didn’t seem so friendly anymore. I went across the street and told the mother I had to be going, keeping my eyes low while she thanked me so that she wouldn’t see that I was lit. As I headed back across the street I heard the girls chirping about how they saw a satellite in the sky. “That’s nice,” the mother responded, before the door clicked shut. I breathed a sigh of relief. If everything was still OK in her world, that was good enough for me.