“Noticed the sky was putting on a show the other morning, so came out again,” Musa said. Softly, softly, as if he, too, feared waking up our families before they absolutely had to be out of bed.
Blind in the darkness, I followed his voice. Yes, there he was, sitting against a fence post just as I had done. His dark outline patted the ground next to him, and I obliged.
“What got you out of bed so early?” he said.
“Mrs Haffajee. She said the Eta Aquarids would be visible around now.”
“This has a name?” Awe coated his words, warm, and friendly. Very different to the time I had insulted him when I was so young. Now I was in High School, the same one as him, although this was his last year and I’m only in Grade 9. “Mrs. Haffajee never told me such interesting stuff. If she had, I might still be taking physics.”
Another star shot across the sky, three more streaking in its wake. I wish upon a star… I swallowed. My throat was dry. In my haste to get out here, I had not had anything to drink.
“I think she only told me because I once told her Mama’s story about the meteorite.”
“Ah,” he said.
More bright streaks crossed the sky. Rather than a circus, it was starting to look like the angels were playing laser tag. I smiled, wondering who was winning.
“So, are you interested in astrology?” he asked.
“Astronomy,” I said. “Astrology is when people ask, ‘What’s your star sign?’ Astronomy is the study of the universe and all the stuff in it.”
I shrugged, keeping my eyes looking up at the show. “No money in it, I imagine. Probably do something practical. Langa said accounting was boring, but the pay he’ll get will make it worthwhile. But Basani is enjoying his courses in Hospitality Management.”
He let out a small, quiet laugh. “Kanyisa, you need to be a people person to do well in Hospitality Management.”
“What?” I hissed. “I’m nice to people.”
“Nu-uh,” he said. “You’re like me. We enjoy our friends and family fine, but the clients get on your nerves. Basani and your father help them with a smile, while you’re hiding, or sending them death glares.”
But I wasn’t mad. The sky was too beautiful, and what he said was true.
“Tell me something,” he said, “about what I’m looking at.”
“I told you, it’s the Eta Aquarids meteor shower.”
“But that’s just a name. Give me details. Like why does it happen, and will it do it again?”
“Every year, apparently. These are the pieces of Halley’s Comet, grains of dust it left behind. I guess they get caught up into an orbit much smaller than Halley’s, because that comet only passes by Earth every 75 years.”
“When does it come by again?”
Silence dropped between us. Stars shot across the sky.
“I’ll be 60,” he breathed. It was if he couldn’t believe it.
“I’ll be 57.”
“Old enough to have grandchildren,” he said.
“I don’t know if I want grandchildren.”
“What do you want, then?”
I don’t know if it was the sight of the shooting stars, or the magical feeling of sitting there watching the sky with Musa, but the words just popped out. “A telescope.”
“Then get one,” he said.
I shook my head. “They’re expensive.”
“Then make one.”
Impossible I almost said. But that can’t be true. Somebody had to invent the first one. I bet it wasn’t very good. But that is how it all began.
Mrs Haffajee said telescopes have been around since 1608, invented by Hans Lippershey. He was a lens maker. But now you can buy magnifying glasses anywhere, even the cheap-cheap shops selling goods from China. Lippershey didn’t have access to NASA’s fancy technology. Maybe you … I …could make one.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll see if I can.”
“Great,” he said. “Let me know what to do, because I’d like to help.”
Tell us: Are you a ‘people person’ or more like Khanyisa and Musa?