We sat in the dark waiting for my cousin. Fireflies twinkled around us. He looked at the clear starry sky and I played with blades of grass. Neither of us said a word. It wasn't planned that there were two of us. All I could think about was that my cousin should come back soon. I felt uncomfortable because I did not know what to talk to him about. For some reason I thought I had to start a conversation, but not only did I have nothing to say, but even if I did, I wouldn't have known how to express myself. I was eleven years old, and it was the first time I'd been alone with someone I didn't really know, who also seemed more exciting than anything I'd experienced before.
To my relief, he was the one who broke the silence: "Did you just see that shooting star?"
"No," I answered loudly, as if it would boost my confidence.
He gave a little chuckle.
"Why are you laughing?" I asked uneasily.
"It must have seemed strange to you that I was so happy about a shooting star, right? I don't see that often in the city."
"No," was again the only thing I could say. I wanted to tell him that I didn't find it strange, but rather beautiful. It's beautiful that he...
Then he lay on his back on the grass. I could see him smiling out of the corner of my eye. Letters danced in my head and I didn't know how to sort them.
But he became more talkative and took over the conversation:
"Can you feel the wind? It's like you can feel which way the earth is turning."
I was silent. When I noticed that his eyes were closed, I decided to stare at him. I wondered what was going on in his head, what he was going to say next. But he just lay there motionless for a while. His breathing was almost silent. The fact that he didn't look at me gave me courage. I asked him carefully:
"You are so far away from home. How does it feel?"
He didn't react at first, which made me feel even more insecure. I continued to play with the blades of grass until he sat up and turned to me.
"You know why I'm here, right?"
I turned to him, too, and found an expression on his face that I didn't know how to interpret. It was as if he couldn't decide whether he doesn’t care about anything or everything bothered him. I panicked inside and mumbled something about an apology.
"Don't get me wrong. Hà Nam is much better than I thought. But I will always hate my parents for sending me away." After a short pause, he continued: "I didn't want the school to burn down."
I stared at him without saying a word. The letters swirled around in my mouth again, ready to burst out, but instead I remained silent. We didn't talk again until my cousin arrived. After that night, we never talked about it again.
Every time I saw him drive by our house, so fast, as if he was trying to escape himself, I wished we could go back to that starry night. I would have asked him to explain to me why a fourteen-year-old boy was sent to a place like Hà Nam, where he lived with his grandparents, where he spoke to an eleven-year-old girl as if she were an adult. Where this eleven-year-old girl first met someone who tried to paint the beauty of life with words and describe the heaviness of that same life without words.
In that starry night I wanted to ask him what had happened. But the letters... I wasn´t in control of them.