The dung beetles come out after dark, after the stars are out and the moon has fled behind the dunes. They trundle along, pushing their noxious burdens, leaving their tiny trails in the dust behind. I watch them, sifting sand through my fingers, and wish my own path were as easy to follow. They always know where they’re going, dung beetles do, although I never understood why. They walk backward, after all, pushing their spoil ahead of them. How can they see where they want to be?
Amma says it’s because of the stars. They watch the stars and know them all, every one of them, and because of that they can always find their way.
I wish I could name the stars the way they do. Maybe I could find my own way in this world.
My bag is already packed. I’m not taking much with me, only a spare dress, another headscarf, and a waterskin. I don’t dare take anymore. It will be heavy after only an hour of walking, and I have many miles to go tonight. Before the sun rises and my father realizes I’m gone.
My father, and the man I’m to marry tomorrow.
I stand, looking up at the stars. They’ll help me find my own way tonight, the same way they help the dung beetles and the jackals that live in the desert. Wanderers don’t live out on the dunes, not for long, but the stars will see my heart, my hopes. They’ll guide me.
I’m sure of it.