The moon shone like a single gaslight in the stygian darkness. The stars flickered in silence, strewn and scattered about like neon dust across the black canvas. Looking up, a question surfaced in his mind. If the stars could talk to one another, what would they say?
His son entered the kitchen and placed a cup on the table. The smell of hot coffee greeted him. He brought the freshly brewed beverage to his lips. Another question came to mind. Do stars, like humans, look for good conversations?
He looked out the window. In the far distance across the sea, city lights filled his eyes. Tall skyscrapers huddled like upright Kit-Kats, each a towering beacon of lights lights lights. Together, they form a sea of crystal glitter, shimmering, pulsating, beating, like the stars above. Are shooting stars simply trying to get away from a bad conversation? He thought in silence.
A beam of light shot across the sea. It oscillated from the nearby lighthouse, flashing in steady rhythm, so one moment the coast lighted up and the next moment it sank into darkness. In the moments where light came on, he could see lethargic waves rolling listlessly upon the coastal rocks, its soft splashes harmonising with the metallic clicking of crickets in the forest. What sound does a shooting star make?
Next to the coffee cup, the walkie-talkie rang to life.
“Hi there, we meet again”
“Just when I thought I would never hear from you again.” He smiled, “but I will have to come back to you later, my friend, I have got some company for now.”
Planting the walkie-talkie back on the table, he fixed his son with a sheepish grin.
“Who is this guy?” the son asked with a surprised look.
“Well, he is a friend, I guess.” He shrugged his shoulders.
“A friend? Never knew you have friends here. At least not when you left nine years ago”
“Ah, I do have friends, son, and are friends separated by distance or time?”
“Who is this guy? What’s with the talkie?” The son ignored his father’s question.
“He is someone I have been talking to since young.”
“Since young?! Even before I was born?” The son gasped in bewilderment. “But I never knew about this!”
A billow of smoke eddied in small wavy circles out of the windows. He had started a pipe.
“Yes son. I was around your age when I found this walkie-talkie in the basement. Spoke into it and a man answered. I’ve been speaking to him through this talkie ever since.”
“Ever since? About what?” The son pressed on, intrigued beyond words.
“Well about anything and everything. We spoke about all kinds of things: Life, poetry, horology, astronomy, botany, anything.”
“Who is he to you? what does he do for a living?” The son pressed further.
“He does work for a living, that’s for sure, and he does have some good perspectives on many things in this world.” He answered. Smoke puffed out of his nostrils in agreement.
“Wait a minute, you have been talking to him for so many years and you don’t know anything about him apart from the assumption that he has a job?”
“Because I don’t know more than I should. I don’t ask, I don’t probe. Neither does he. I don’t know how many children he has, whether he is married. What I do know is that he is much older than me, and that’s from his voice.”
“And I thought you finally coming back was the joke.”
“No I am serious.” He replied slowly, peeved at his son’s sarcasm.
“Why are the both of you doing this? What is the meaning of these conversations?”
“The moment you search for a meaning, it escapes you. Tell me, son, when was the last time you had a really meaningful conversation with anyone?”
“I have many friends. We share many things and we talk to one another on a daily basis.”
“Were they meaningful conversations?”
“What do you mean by meaningful?”
“And to think you asked me about it a moment ago.”
“Well, it’s only normal that we can’t always speak freely. We have to be tasteful at times because all of us have our own sensitivities. Society frowns upon loose tongues.” The son answered in defence.
“But there is no society at all between me and him.” He replied swiftly.” In our conversations, there is no hesitation, no filter, no second-guesses. That is why over the years I have enjoyed so much more from talking to him than I do from anyone else.”
To this, the son was silent. His thoughts seemed to agree with his father’s words. A low thunder rolled upon the sky. A fork of lightning came to life.
“Is that why you do not want to find out more about him?”
“Well, it is better for him to remain a question mark.” A smile formed around his lips. “To be a possibility among possibilities, and this I believe, is the same for him as well.” He turned to his son. “Because we are possibilities to each other, our conversations over the years remain pristine and pure.”
Taking another long drag at his pipe, he allowed the words to sink in. The night sparkled with the hiss of distance.
“What about the walkie-talkie?” the son pointed to the table.
“Well, this device makes us listen to the very end. If either one pushes the button to speak before the other stops talking, the conversation breaks down. You may not realise it, but the walkie-talkie does train one to be a really good listener and communicator.”
“Now that you mentioned this. It does make sense.” The son conceded.
“You said earlier that you talked to your many friends on a daily basis. But isn’t it a shame when you think about how we communicate these days. So much is lost in a conversation because everyone is just interrupting sentences, typing away, talking past one another, expecting instant replies.” He shook his head to further affirmate his point. “Where is the patience and sincerity?” He continued.
“Where is your sincerity when you left for nine long years, and I presume, without telling him beforehand. He must have been waiting for you. I would have been pissed if I were him.” The son countered.
“Well, there was once a period of two years before he answered me again. But I didn’t wait two years for him, and neither did he wait nine years for me. We are not pissed at each other.”
“I am not convinced.” The son smiled.
“You are not convinced because you are mistaken. You are mistaken because “wait” is the wrong word here.” He nodded slowly.
“Why?” the son asked, stroking his chin for a moment
“Because possibilities do not wait for each other.”
The night rumbled with the distant roll of thunder. It sounded ominous, like it came not from the zenith of the sky, but from the deepest abyss of the earth.
“Hey there, you heard it? The squall is coming” The gruff voice blended with the night.
“Yes. It will come and it will go.” He replied.
The son’s mind did a double flip.
“Wait a minute. He could hear the thunder as well. So where is he?” The son placed his hands onto the table and leaned forward for the answer, intrigued beyond words.
“Well, he is right there.” He tilted his head towards the window.
The son looked outward. The seas shimmered like black diamond. His gaze fell upon the lighthouse.
“Yes, the lighthouse.”
“He works there?”
“Does he know you are here”
“Again. It’s possible”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Well, I will find you after I am done” he suggested.
The son said nothing but stared at the lighthouse, lost in thought. The oscillating beam of light caught his face faintly and the man saw his own age in the young vibrant face of his son.
“In the meantime, you may want to check out the new telescope I bought for you. It’s a clear night, for now.”
“It’s always the same stars out there”
“Only if you think the same thoughts”
The son shrugged and let the answer pass. He took the coffee cup and left the room.
The moment the door snapped shut, a shooting star leapt across the night. It was unusually bright like a fireball, and it was gone in a flash.
He smiled to himself, and for a moment, seemed to be lost in reverie.
The walkie-talkie sprang to life.