There’s a house on my block that’s being rebuilt, a new plywood and lumber skeleton on the same foundation.
I walked the dogs at midnight, just down the block and back. From across the street they barked at the dark construction site. On the old front stoop I saw a slow cigarette smoked by a man in shadows.
This is not a street of trespassing midnight smokers. One theft down the block last month. At home, I called the cops.
They came in minutes. From my rear terrace, hiding in darkness, I saw three police talking to one guy. I went to my house and got binoculars. 8×42, a good pair. Yes I am now a creepy neighbor, but at least I was dressed. A man in a clean white polo shirt talked gamely to three police. Probably working in the basement. I felt a little bad. The police stayed a while, ten minutes and more, the man talking and talking to them. The longer the police stayed, the more illicit it all felt. I stopped watching.
In my stealthy dark, Orion hung in bright points on our city’s indigo skies. I looked through my binoculars and saw wonders. Orion’s sword is not three stars, but three pairs, separated by fractions of a degree, a lovely crystalline needle. Around the needle, hundreds of tiny points with presence and color and depth. Space, like a dawn in my head.
To the east, Jupiter had risen above the trees. My hands’ small shaking smeared it in wavy orange lines like Arabic, bright enough to leave afterimages. I alternated between Jupiter and the dark of Orion’s sword, learning to hold the binoculars still. For a beat, a pause, a half-second — Jupiter’s topaz sphere, magnificently big. Above and below it, on a neat line from one- to seven-o’clock, the four largest moons. I felt like I was flying toward them, only minutes away.
I will be using binoculars more often. Tonight in a mere twelve degrees of sky, the width of two thumbs at arm’s length, I saw a giant planet with its own moons, a trio of paired stars.
I did also get some working guy hassled by police.
The police eventually left.