Alex and Jack walked along the gravel path on the way to the baseball diamond, kicking stones and watching as the dust flew fine and wild about them. It had been a week with almost no rain, and a fine coat of dust had settled on everything: car roofs, lawn furniture, bird houses, even the individual leaves on trees.
As the two approached the baseball diamond — a bleak affair of yellowish soil, crumbling bleachers and a chain-link backstop with a yawning hole — a massive cloud of fine silt rose in the air about them. First sailing high, then swirling in a circle, the dust enveloped the boy and young man in their own private, gentle tornado.
Alex stood in the sandstorm, his eyes closed to tiny slits, and watched the light play on the tiny, almost microscopic bits of dust. Light reflected all around him, twinkling and twirling, shimmering with a phosphorescence. The flashes reminded him of sci-fi movies where light streaks passed starship windows, becoming white-hot ribbons containing all the available energy of entire worlds. Alex imagined being in a nebula in the Andromeda Galaxy. It felt as if he were drifting above gravity.
The boy rubbed his eyes, feeling the soot on his lids. By the time he blinked, the tiny storm had ended. The vortex collapsed, leaving Alex and Jack feeling dirty and hot, their eyes stinging from the assault of tiny particles.
Alex and Jack looked at each other and laughed. Alex dropped his head and gazed at the patterns his footprints made in the dust. He figured there was no sense in explaining what he just had seen.
“Why do things like that only happen to me?” Alex asked, mostly to himself.
“They happen to me, too,” said Jack, looking straight into Alex’s eyes. “You think you’re the only one who experiences those little flashes of wonder, but you aren’t alone, kiddo. Not by a long shot.”
Alex looked down at the ground, wishing he hadn’t sounded stupid. He knew his mom wouldn’t have seen the lights and the transfixing colors. She’d have seen blowing dirt, pure and simple. No matter what Alex saw, no matter how he described it to his mom, she never, ever shared his experience.
So it was no wonder — since Mom was Alex’s only point of reference — that he assumed he was strange. A little off. “Weird kid,” as one of Mom’s old boyfriends used to say. Alex looked up and saw Jack struggling, his mouth pursed as he composed his words.
“It’s all a matter of perception, Alex,” Jack said, stopping to sit on one of the dilapidated bleacher seats. “Perception. No one’s right, and no one’s wrong. You see what you want to see.”
“Mom would see dirt.”
“And we saw dirt, too. Only we also saw the light.”
Alex looked into Jack’s flashing gray eyes, straightened his back and began to swallow with care.
“The light, in between the dirt, the light is what they’re missing,” Alex said, brightening.
“The light, the empty spaces, the holes, the air,” Jack said, looking off into the hazy distance. “That’s what they always miss.”