What it Feels Like to Not See Yourself in the Stars

By Anonymous // As told by Mollie Wagner

Mollie Wagner

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February 21, 2020
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December 17, 2019

I have never believed in constellations; I didn’t dwell on the stars that wiggled into galaxies and I didn’t sit awake pondering on the prophecy that aligned the stars the night I sat alongside the moon. I never believed in constellations until I built them out of the couches I slept on during nights I was stuck with the stars, like tonight.

Resting my body in the bed of blankets crammed in the trunk of my car, I remember earlier this evening finding beauty in the sunset and dancing in the sky of purple and blue, with the same feet I used to walk out of my house, with the echoes of “you’re not good enough” ringing in my ear—leaving me vulnerable and slapping myself in the face.

I have always found a guardian in music, so as I drove my tired teenage body into downtown Chicago, I cleared my tears with the hum of a song. I passed familiar buildings and matched them with faces I will most likely never see again, but wondered where they were in that moment. Could anyone hear my song? My thoughts? I shook my head, readjusted my hands and continued down the narrow highway.

I pull into the diner parking lot where my brothers and I shared strawberry milkshakes to get out of the house when mom and dad would be at each other’s throats. I trace the skyscrapers with my index finger, counting each corner, memorizing their names and recognizing the buildings I traced prior. I drove past my old home today—it tugged at my heart: seeing another family so happy with my old walls of comfort, where so many memories and embraces took place. I admired that last sunset—it reminded me of home and as the sky became a deep blue, the milky way in the little town that I now call home seemed so unfamiliar compared to the galaxies that swim in this big city.

As my mother’s car sputtered to a stop in the driveway, I could hear her car door violently shut from inside the kitchen. I jumped from the couch and turned the burner off on the stove, the table already set, I took my place. She walked in and let out a large exhale, running her hands through her hair and covering her eyes. The silence throughout the house made the gush of wind trailing behind her cold; she finally looked across the room at me, drained. Her deep set eyes were unrecognizable, they hide behind her eye bags that cried her to sleep.

I finally get one-on-one time with my mom before my dad gets home, which is very rare. I ramble on about my minuscule girl problems that seem small compared to an adult with struggles bigger than the moon, but she keeps an interested look in the small glances she flashes my way in between bites. It’s hard to bond with my mom because she works so much, but I try my best to make the most out of the little time I get with her come nightfall, which is why I do all of the cooking and cleaning around the house—to at least take a little off of her daily plate. The calmest part of my day is when my mom comes home. That also means I have to start preparing myself for my father to walk in the door, which can either be pleasant or far from it.

The house is very still in his presence. You can see the tension wrestling in his broad shoulders and the tired look in his eyes—both of my parents long for more sleep. Maybe more sleep would improve their moods and ease the anger—there is so much anger. I never really faced the wrath of my father until my childhood grew into the life of a teenager. I knew of the hardships that were placed upon him his whole life; I gladly roll with the punches to make him feel better. I anticipate the fight sometimes, knowing his built up aggression lingering behind the grit in his teeth will burst the very minute he sees the dishes in the sink unwashed for the first time in three weeks or finds my brother’s socks at the bottom of the stairs again. So I continue on with my mother, careful to leave out several details of my day; I feel comfortable sharing a lot with her but not everything. I think it’s better for the both of us that way.

The engine in my father’s car roars to a stop and he waltzes into the kitchen to greet my mother and me. The way his whole body droops down showcases that his day wasn’t the greatest.

Now starts the anticipation.

He begins mumbling words to my mother and I begin dragging my fork along my plate, retracing the steps I did in the front lawn as I tried to mimic the sunset’s beauty. I took my leftover peas and made them into a circle around the edge of my plate. I began counting them, like steps. I forgot about the two adults sitting in front of me; I look up and catch the cold stare coming from my father towards me. He looks upset, angry. I have his nose. I turn to look at my mother, a tear falls down her striking cheekbones.

I am told to leave

I am told to be anywhere but in his house.

I feel anxious, but unamused. The cold car keys soothe my sweaty hands as I start the engine of my car. The day of the week will depend on my residence for that day. I don’t dare bother my friends on a school night, so I simply rely on the city to keep me company for the evening. During my drive, I think about my mother. I think about the coat of misery she wraps around us all like a thick, black cloak. I hope one day to take it off and step out of the shadows I have so heavily been darkened by in silence. I dream of being great. Considering the lack of belief I have read on the faces of those who so easily gave up on me, it’s not going to be easy. I’m hoping one day it won’t require an explanation for them or an argument with them to reach for the stars.

I walk into the poorly lit diner and sit on the worn down barstool—my brother’s spot. The cashier smiles as she walks into the kitchen, letting the door swing shut behind her. I am not alone, the big windows allow the night sky to join me as a strawberry milkshake slides across the counter. I sip slowly and watch the cherry sink to the bottom. Tears well-up in my eyes as my phone lights up with a familiar ring: my mother. I lay a five dollar bill beneath the bottom of the glass and push through the swivel door, waving to the cashier.

I answer her call; my chest tightens.

She makes me promise to be safe—not asking my whereabouts.

My cheeks feel hot as I remove the phone from my ear and hang up on the woman who raised me to be me. I climb to the trunk and bring my journal with me, putting my travel-size flashlight between my teeth.

Maybe one day among the bruised pages, I will build a boat out of the doors that have hit me in the face and sail down the river of tears that I have let slip and fall onto city streets. I will learn to carve a home out of my body and hopefully one day find it beautiful, too, like the sunset. I will rhyme melodies with the abuse and sleep in the bed of blankets crammed in the trunk of my car. This beautiful, beautiful bed that has been built with so many layers and seen so many sides of me. This exquisite bed that knows me better than my parents. This perfectly imperfect bed that allows me to sit with the stars at night, building constellations out of the couches I’ve slept on.

I will be great…

one day.