She sat on the warm hood of her father’s old truck, arms hugging her knees tight against the cooling evening breeze that was finally bringing relief to the day’s heat. She was watching and waiting for something.
* * *
Her usually stoic father had come home that evening, excited. He had shooed her mother and her into the truck and drove them to a giant old park in the heart of the most dangerous area of the city. Her mother, angry and confused about the disruption to her evening plans, cursed at the silent shadow of her father behind the steering wheel and muttered under her breath about being murdered.
She sat between her parents, dumbstruck by the mysterious urgency of their trip. She listened to all the strange sounds of the hot city rushing by the windows. She closed her eyes against the steady flicker of dull street lights. She did not know what to expect. She did not know what was going to happen next. But it felt good, promising. She gripped the dirty bench seat under her sweaty knees and held on.
The space between flickers of light lengthened and urban sounds faded to crickets and cicadas. They were at the old park entrance now, a crumbling archway covered in vines and weeds. Her father turned down a dark road, dimly lit and surrounded by overgrown trees, and slowed the truck to a crawl as he made his way into the park. Unexpectedly, the road opened onto a wide meadow and her father pulled the truck to the middle of the field. Everyone got out of the truck and his father lifted her on to the warm truck hood so she could have a good view. He spread a blanket out on the ground for him and her mother. In an animated voice, he instructed them to watch the sky in front of them. She and her mother waited and watched, little pools of sweat gathering in the folds of their skin. Time ticked by and they kept watching, wondering what they were meant to see, wondering what her father knew. The night cooled, and the city seemed so far away from this spot in the old park. Her parents spoke to each other in hushed voices, lulling her into a sticky sleepy haze.
And then, just as she was getting tired, it happened. Right in front of their eyes, big and bold and bright. They watched quietly, awed by what they saw. It was not what she expected. It was nothing she had ever seen before.
And it was exciting, promising. Not like her life before that moment. Then they silently climbed back into the truck and drove home.
At home, her mother acted like nothing happened. Her father receded into his stoic self. But she could not forget – it changed her. She carried within her the excitement and the promise of that evening and kept looking for it in the sky every day for the rest of her life.