By Emma Abdullah
I’d like to dedicate this story to the glowing necklace boy on the Gulf Road, whose name I will never know but whose story will stay with me always.
When I was younger, I always thought the moon followed my car. I felt proud it had chosen mine and not any of the other cars. Whenever I rode in a car in the evening, I’d look out to see if the moon was following me and every time, there it was. There was some comfort in knowing something bigger and greater than myself was looking out for me. There was a warm feeling in seeing the mysterious silver ball lay in the sky like a great pearl and in telling myself that it was watching over me. When we passed tall buildings, I’d play peek- a -boo with the moon. It would hide behind a structure and I would count the seconds till it came back out again. Sometimes it took a while and I was afraid it had gotten lost or it didn’t want to play with me anymore. After all, there was nothing special about me and there were other children who wanted to play with the moon. Suddenly, everything felt a little darker and my heart sank a little lower until from a stretch of grey clouds I’d catch a glimpse of silver, and would smile because the moon was back for me again.
The moon didn’t follow me when I was home. It hung still in its sky of dark clouds to watch over me and when I was alone or feeling afraid, I’d go over to my window and smile because the gentle moon would keep me company. The gentle moon would smile. One day I wondered if the moon would still follow me if I didn’t have a car or if it would protect me if I didn’t have a home. I wondered if it would be there when nothing else was, or if like all other things, it left when times were hard. The thought had scared me and I had decided to look around when I was in my car and check if the people walking in the streets also looked up like I did. It was then that I saw him for the first time.
He had eyes like those of a frightened animal; they darted from side to side as car headlights reflected in them. He scurried between the cars waving glowing necklaces at the drivers with a pitiful look, before moving on as they shook their heads. He couldn’t have been any older than I was and the thought of him being out there alone made me afraid. Where were his parents? I remember asking my own parents why such a little boy was out on the street by himself and why nobody seemed to want to buy the necklaces he was selling. Why didn’t we buy one? Why didn’t we help him? My question was answered by the traffic light turning green and the roar of nearby engines as everyone hurried to get to where they were going. I held my breath as the little boy zigzagged between the moving cars before safely reaching the sidewalk with his necklaces. He still had all of them. Nobody had bought anything.
Every time we passed by the Gulf Road, I asked the moon to let me watch the little boy instead. When the traffic light turned red, he only had a few minutes to try to sell his glowing necklaces. I observed as he waved them at car windows until someone handed him a note or some coins which he would tuck neatly into his pocket. Whenever he came by our car, I would beg my mother to buy a necklace and lower my eyes so as not to make eye contact with him when I knew she didn’t have change. I watched people turn their heads as he approached, pretending they could not see him even when he knocked at their windows or stuck his little face on the glass and smiled. Some pretended they were busy and others told him to go away. It hurt me to see people ignore him and my heart stopped for a moment when the traffic light would turn green and he would have to sprint to safety. I wondered then why it was that some children had homes and cars and moons to protect them. I wondered why some could go to school and learn and hope to become greater people when others were condemned to living a life of begging, running and fear. I wondered why it was that I had been chosen to be one of the lucky children instead of him, when he was so much braver than I was. The years passed and still I saw him. He grew. He was there almost every night with his necklaces that glowed against a moon greater than he was but who would not look after him. I stopped observing him because I could not do it without guilt in my chest and I became like all the others; those who looked but pretended not to see or those who simply turned their heads so there would be nothing to see at all.
As I got older, I stopped playing with the moon. I stopped paying attention to it or fantasizing about its mysteries. There was nothing special about the moon. As things got more complicated, there was no more comfort or warmth in watching it. It followed me like it followed everyone else and when the clouds in the night sky were too dark, it would hide behind them like the coward it was.