Two Bright Stars
Illustrated by Natalya Fedorenko
She made a muffled exasperated groan and stormed out to our room, leaving me alone in the middle of our mess of a living room. She did not slam the door, she did not want to wake up the kids (if they were not already awake and listening closely to all of our words) but the faint final click it produced when it closed echoed frustratingly in my head.
Why did it have to come to this? Why is it so hard to resolve an argument peacefully? Why did we have to get into an argument in the first place? Aren’t we supposed to be smarter than this, more rational?
All I wanted was some peace. All I wanted was some order. Not hard. Not hard at all. I could not do it. I could not stay between those four walls. I could not. Could not. I was suffocating. I needed to breathe. I needed to…I needed to… I needed to…BREATHE!
Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.
I opened our front door and got out quickly, not forgetting the same precautions my wife had taken and glancing one last time towards the closed door of our room.
I emerged into our balcony and frantically gasped for air. As my breathing calmed down and the fresh summer breeze caressed my glistening brow, I felt relief, deliverance, as if having walked out that door had taken me far, far away. Did my wife feel like this a few moments ago? Thinking about her was enough for my alleviation to be almost immediately overshadowed by feelings of frustration, but mostly of weariness, of defeat.
Defeat…Against who? Was this a battle? Did it have to be?
Why did we fight? I started thinking about when my wife and I fought with our 17 year old daughter over her not dressing appropriately, or with our 13 year old over him bringing below average grades, or with our 6 year old over him not wanting to eat his greens. I thought about when I fought with my wife…always about the stupidest of things… Or fighting with all of them to get ready on time or to make time on their schedules for family activities? And how did all of these conflicts end? Badly, that’s how. Was it worth it? What did we gain from this exasperation, for this anger, from this pain? A tearful reconciliation, a hug, and the promise of a change of the status quo for the better… Then, slowly but surely, things would start degenerating, our resolutions would decay, making us relapse into our unhealthy habits. What followed? Another fight of course? And the shouting, and the hurting, and the tears, and the reconciliation, and the hug, and the promise… All over again. Was it even worth it to bother if this was the end result? Was it worth it if all of our struggles would only get us back to the first case?
No, I could not think like that. I had to be rational. There cannot only be two black and white options. That would be a lazy way of thinking. It would be too easy. Life is not that simple. Life is more complex…I felt like I was on the verge of understanding something very important but the gates of knowledge refused to open no matter how hard I pulled. And I was really tired of trying to force it…Maybe I should try pushing. I chuckled dryly at my own joke.
I took a deep breath. All of this was truly overwhelming. I sat down and looked at the clear starry sky. I remembered my father. Despite his death being more than a decade ago, I could not shake the melancholy that invaded me every time I thought about him. I guess it is one of those things you will just never get over. I remembered the childhood I spent with him. I remembered butting heads with him. I remembered laughing with him, learning from him, growing beside him…I remembered seeing him at his deathbed. I remembered squeezing his hand and looking at him through teary eyes.
Through teary eyes, I looked at the thousands of heavenly bodies that populated the dark sea above me. Their beauty calmed me and moved me. It reminded of the first time I saw my wife. I remembered that I had found two bright stars in the place of her eyes. I remembered I had told her that in a poem I had written for her. The crescent moon reminded me of her wide smile. I remembered that she had smiled the day I proposed to her. I remembered that she smiled when she saw each of our children for the first time. I remembered my mother ask me once before I was married, “Is she the one?” It has been a little over two decades and after all the stupid fights, the petty disagreements, the painful moments, my answer has not changed.
I smiled. I got up and walked to the driveway. I turned myself towards our house, our home, and took a deep breath. I had regained confidence under the dark illuminated sky. I had to keep fighting. Fighting for this family, for our unity. But the answer wasn’t that simple. Life IS more complex after all. I had to find a new way of fighting, a more effective, more flexible, way. Would it solve the problem definitely? Probably nothing ever will, but that was not a reason to stop fighting.
I went back into our home.
I entered my youngest son’s room. He had pushed all of his sheets away and was lying in a star position in his bed. His little mouth was wide open and a trace of saliva appeared on his left cheek. Sleeping with him were all of his toys from his blanket to his figurines and trucks. I smiled. I cleared his bed carefully so he would have more space but made sure to leave his blanket. I wiped his cheek with a tissue and gently kissed his forehead.
I entered my second son’s room. His bed lamp was still on. He had fallen asleep face down on his book. I made my way through the clothes that lay on the ground. I smiled. I tenderly moved him on his side and put his book beside his bed, not forgetting to mark the page in which he had interrupted his reading. I kissed his forehead.
I entered my daughter’s room. She was still awake, working, studying. She seemed deeply focused on her work. I smiled. She had her earphones so she did not notice me until I put my hand on her shoulder.
- Just don’t stay up until too late, okay?
- Sure, Dad, she said smiling.
I kissed her forehead and on my way out I told her good night.
The corridor leading to our room was full of family photos. They were all displayed chronologically starting from our room. So, while walking towards my room, I looked at each picture and enjoyed the trip back in time that ended on a photo of our marriage. I arrived in front of our door and, having been freed of all of my doubts, I entered.