Mrs. H, do you like constellations? The third grader stops me in the library. I found the big dipper twice. I tell him I look at the sky every chance I get. I look at his sweet face. I ask him if he's ever found Orion's Belt. It's an easy one to find, I tell him. He shakes his head no, and tells me he likes to find his own constellations. Dragons, mostly. I tell him maybe one day he'll discover a constellation so amazing they will name it after him. He is so visibly pleased with that the idea, it makes me want to cry. That would be so cool.
His mother's stomach strains against the buttons on her coat. The winter has been mild, but she wears it when she picks him up after school. She pushes a stroller with a sleeping toddler. Her long hair is pulled back neatly today in a ponytail. The rubber band is just a rubber band. The kind you keep in the top drawer in the kitchen.
I know things are hard. I want to ask her when the baby is due. If her husband ever came back. If she knows how much her boy loves to look at the stars. I think I might tell her there is a planetarium right here in the city. You can take your kids on Monday nights and look through a giant telescope and it doesn't cost a thing.
She says hello and smiles at me. She lets me know she has a new waitress job at one of the neighborhood restaurants. I wonder how long she will able to keep it with the baby due so soon. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I'll be at the new restaurant on Massachusetts. I'll stop in one night, I tell her.
If I knew her better, I'd tell her about the planetarium on Massachusetts Avenue. I'd offer to take her boy one Monday night myself. But I don't. Her son is not even in my class. He just likes to talk to me about stuff. I watch her walk away with her stroller, her swollen feet, and her boy who loves to make up his own constellations.
He turns and waves to me.
Don't forget to look for dragons tonight, Mrs. H.