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Where the Stars Still Shine

Where the Stars Still Shine

Description : Where the Stars Still Shine
Yellow light slashes the darkness as Mom sneaks into the apartment again. The muffled creak of the floorboards beneath the shabby carpet gives her away, along with the stale-beer-and-cigarette smell that always follows her home from the Old Dutch. Tonight she is not alone, and the shushing sound she makes as she closes the door is loud enough to wake me, if I wasn’t already awake. His features are lost in the darkness, but his shape is bulky and tall, and he adds the sharp scent of leather jacket to the room. Willing myself invisible, I press myself against the cushions of the couch, but when his hands reach for her waist, I realize I already am. Mom’s giggle is husky as she pirouettes out of his grasp and leads him into her bedroom.

I can’t sleep when she brings men home, so I pull on my dirty jeans and cram my feet into untied sneakers. The floorboards creak under my feet, too, as I let myself out. A permanent, pungent cloud of curry and grease hangs in the hall courtesy of our right-side neighbors. I’ve never met them. I’ve only seen their shoes lined in a neat row outside their front door, and sometimes at night jangling Bollywood music seeps through the thin wall between us.

My breathes out in filmy white puffs as I push my way out of the building into the November chill. I tuck my hands into the sleeves of my blue thermal, wishing I’d brought my hoodie. Seems like yesterday it was autumn, but tonight winter waits impatiently for its turn. Up on Union Avenue I duck into the empty Super Wash. It’s a favorite of mine. Warm, in that steamy, dryer-sheet-scented Laundromat way. Crinkled tabloid magazines. And vending machines that dispense the four basic food groups: salty, sweet, soda, and chocolate.

I burrow my hand into my hip pocket...