Last night I dared to do it for the first time – painting bright swathes of silver on my toenails as I hummed to the music on the radio. It was late enough for everyone else to be asleep, and I kept the volume and the lights low enough so that nobody would be woken up by any unexpected sights and sounds.
I admired my work for a few moments before I reluctantly pulled my ugly grey wool socks back on, loving how the lacquer glittered beneath the understated glow of the night-light, and imagined what it would be like to paint my fingernails like that, out in the open for everyone to see, and to wear tight shimmering shirts and pants in the same, or similar, metallic hues. I wanted to adorn my face with white theatrical makeup and bright red lipstick, and daub a streak of glittering red and gold lightning across my face, and go out into the night like that for everyone to see and hopefully admire.
But I contented myself with just making my toenails pretty for the time being. I did not want to get myself in trouble, not just yet. For Claire’s sake, I had to be strong.
I found myself wishing for what must have been the millionth time in my life that I could be as brave as Claire. She put brightly coloured polish on her nails, and grew them out much longer than what was allowed at our strict school. When out of uniform, she sometimes even wore a platinum blonde wig that spilled in soft curly locks halfway down her back to cover up her own cropped brown hair that is far shorter than she wants it to be. Last time she tried to grow it out, her mother cut it by force with a pair of sewing scissors, so she’s waiting till we can both leave home to grow her hair exactly how she wants it. And she’ll never cut it again when we do, because nobody will ever be able to tell us what to do again.
Unless her dad gets her put away like he’s threatened to do more than once over the past year or so. When he caught her wearing that red leather mini-skirt she got at the market, I thought he might actually do what he said he would, even though she bought it with money she earned herself at her after-school job and I don’t believe it’s any of his business how she spends that money. But Claire told me not to worry about it. She says he’s all talk and no action, and when we’re old enough to get our own place together, we’ll move so far away from both our families that nobody will be able to touch us.
It’s what we’ve always wanted to do, since we were twelve. That’s when Claire first told me she was my girl, even though I believe I’ve always known that. It was in the way she moved and the things she said, long before either of us knew anything for sure about what we wanted to do with our lives and who we wanted to be when we grew up.
Even before I decided that I didn’t want to grow up to be like my parents, and that I wanted to be a rock star.
A rock star like the one I heard on the radio last night. I think that he’s an alien. He just has to be.
I couldn’t hear what the DJ said his name was, but the sound of his voice and the echoes of the guitar that made notes climb up towards heaven sent warm ripples all through my body and made me feel my silver nails were glowing underneath the dullness of my itchy socks. Hardly daring to breathe, I let the music wash over me and felt the lyrics soak into my soul.
He was playing and singing for us, the youth, because we are the future. We are his children, even though we have not yet seen his face. He must be an alien, something wonderful from a planet far from Earth, a planet much better than the boring little world we live in, because he thinks it might be too wild, too scary and too mind-blowing for him to appear before us like some angel in a Bible story. But I know for certain that he loves us and he wants us to love him, even though we can only hear the music for now and have yet to see him in the flesh.
He must be beautiful, though. All aliens are beautiful, I believe. I think they are like humans but not quite – this one, I feel, is both male and female in one body, and his heart and blood are made of the musical notes that hum through the cosmos. His soul is a song that is translated to us by means of that guitar and spread around the Earth by radio waves. The DJ is a human, but he understands the aliens’ language. He wants to help all of us children who are listening to understand it too.
It all sounds so crazy when I try to write it down, but when I called Claire on the phone to tell her all about it, what I was trying to say made perfect sense to her.
“I tried to pick him up on the TV like you said, but all I got was the test pattern,” she told me sadly. I could picture her pouting and wished that I could be sitting beside her on her bed, with a comforting arm around her slender shoulders.
“It’s OK – try looking out your window instead. There’s a star that’s brighter than all the others, a little to the left of the moon. I think that’s him.”
“I think you’re right,” Claire replied dreamily, and I knew from her tone that she was looking up at the sky at the exact same moment I was. “Do you think he might come down from the sky if we both let ourselves shine, really and truly shine, so bright that he can see us from space?”
“Well, I painted my toenails silver tonight,” I replied, and I heard her lovely soft giggle on the other end of the phone.
“That’s a start. But I’m talking about sparkling on the inside.”
It was the most beautiful image I’d ever heard her come up with, and I was about to tell her so when I heard that loud-mouth father of hers yelling in the background. I found myself hoping that he hadn’t heard what we were saying or he might find a way to get both of us sent to the loony bin.
“Andrew! Get off the bloody phone, right now!”
“I’ll talk to you tomorrow, Johnny – love you,’ Claire whispered, and hung up before I could reply.
And here I am – waiting for her to call me, looking out the window for our star-man, and writing in my diary.
I think Claire already knows how to sparkle enough to bring an alien rock star down from heaven to Earth. But if I am ever going to, I had better start learning how to sing and play the guitar.