I had to be really careful when I was going back to the trampoline.

After the rain cleared up earlier in that day, I was playing with my host brother on the trampoline, bouncing and rolling, when I happened to fall on my back failing to do a somersault, I noticed that when I looked up at the sky from the trampoline, there was nothing else, but the sky. No mountains or trees. Since the trampoline was huge, I was able to lie with my arms and legs sprawled out. I wondered, “What will it be like at night?” I was raised in the countryside of Japan, so I had experience seeing starry skies, but I had never seen it in complete darkness or without any obstacles around. I imagined how romantic it would be seeing only the starry sky, with not only my eyes, but with all of my body.

I decided to sneak out of my room around nine at night. At that time everyone was sound asleep because where I was in Australia, people went to bed quite early. That’s why I had to be really careful, but that’s not the only reason why I had to be cautious. Nine o’clock is certainly not that late, but I was supposed to go to sleep by eight. My little host brother was only thirteen-years-old, so his parents had a rule to make him go to bed by eight. I was not forced to follow their house rules, but when I started to live with them a couple of weeks before, I decided to keep their rules so that I felt more a part of their family and not a special guest. However, since I recently declared to follow the rules, and we were still at the getting-to-know-each-other stage, it was hard to ask at the dinner table if I could go out at night, so I just decided to sneak out.

I was bare footed when I left my room, and because it was always hot in Australia, I was wearing short pants and a tank top for pajamas. The first step I took in the long narrow hallway, I could feel the temperature of the cooled down timber on the soles of my feet.

First obstacle, after four steps, on my left side, I reached right in front of my host brother’s room. It might sound like a piece of cake, walking past his room without waking him up, but it wasn’t because the door was open since my host family also had a rule to always leave the door open when we went to bed. My host family built their own house when they got married, so some parts of the floor squeaked when we walked. And most of all, I knew that sometimes he was not sleeping even when he was in bed. My brother’s bed was located along the corridor wall, so I was able to see the top of his head out of the corner of my eye. Fortunately, it seemed he was actually sleeping that night.

Careful, careful.

Second obstacle, after two more steps, on my right side, I reached the front of my host parents’ room. The door was left open, again. This time, I saw the soles of their feet. I felt a tense atmosphere around me, and a feeling of guilt. After I passed their room, I quickened my pace and I reached the silent messy living room, which only hours earlier, was filled with the noise of the TV and my host family’s laughter. Now it was also sleeping in silence. On the left side, there was a tiny kitchen they hardly ever used. My host mother was not the best chef, so we often had microwave food or barbecued steak my host father grilled in the backyard.

I finally reached the back door, but then I regretted forgetting to grab my flip-flops. I hesitated to open the lock of the worn-out porch. I knew the ground was always moist from the thickly grown weed. I touched my pocket making sure I didn’t forget to bring my digital camera. At least, with that, I would be able to achieve my goal. I stared at the porch for a while, noticing some parts of the white paint peeling off. I decided not to go back, and slowly opened the door because it usually creaked loud when we opened it, so that everyone in the house could hear when somebody came home. I closed it carefully, and released my hand from the doorknob. I felt the satisfaction of clearing all the obstacles.

I was not feeling fear, guilt or regret anymore but excitement. I ran on tiptoes with my bare feet on the damp wood deck, jumped over the stairs, and landed on the moist ground. I hardly saw anything because there were absolutely no lights. In the pitch darkness and silence, my mind concentrated on the two senses; smell and touch. I smelled deep green, dirt, humidity and cool air through my nose. I could feel the wet deep-brown ground and thick weeds through my soles. I was feeling satisfied. “This is it,” I whispered to myself. I caught the object in my eyes and dashed to it. I hurriedly unzipped the safety net surrounding the trampoline from bottom to top, and rolled myself into the black-big-bouncing-circle-shaped space, and I turned over on my back.

The scenery was more than what I imagined during the day. It was powerful. It was totally different from the starry skies I had seen in my life. The darkness of the sky was something quiet but strong. Often times, people associate darkness with a negative image, glowering or gloomy, but the darkness the sky had was not that kind of darkness. It was sophisticated, polished, and clean. In Japan, I could count how many stars there were in my sight, but there, it was countless. It was the same when my hands slipped and spilled a container full of salt. Some dots were glowing, some dots were glittering strongly, and some dots were twinkling faintly. The formation of the stars was complete. Even though no one decided for it to be that way, somehow the formation was irregular but perfect. For the first time in my life, I saw the Milky Way. It was actually a river of stars. I thought it was a myth like the love story of Altair and Vega. Even though it is a mystery why people were so fascinated by those starry heavens, just small dots of lighting in a vacant darkness, it was breathtaking. Me to the sky, there was nothing else. I felt like the stars were falling towards me, and I stretched my arms. I folded my arms behind my head and stared at the stars for ages. Smelling sweat, dirt, coolness, green, and gratefulness. I took out my camera and released the shutter, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to project anything. I was happy. Checking the photo I just took, looking at the black screen, and feeling myself smiling. “Only I know how beautiful this picture is.”

Coming back to Japan, I look up at the sky at night. The sky will never be the same as the one I saw that night, and it is even hard to imagine. But when I see that photo, it recalls the shine.

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