Saturday night we cruised north on I-75. The highway was a sea of red, and rain streaked the brake lights across the bus’s massive windshield in arcs and splashes. But the traffic charged forward, sweeping us along with it.
In the distance, the lights of Atlanta’s skyscrapers rose above the trees like the center of a newly formed galaxy.
The kids played in the back of the bus, long past their normal bed time. Maile sat beside me at the front of the bus, her feet up on the dash. We talked about how years change people. How life has made us a little more tired, a little more mature, a touch more cynical, a little less selfish.
Then we entered the city, the lights rising around us. It’s a fascinating feeling, driving through such tall buildings late on a rainy, Saturday night. The lights reflected off the wet highway, battered the windshield. Passing cars glared into my side view mirrors, then flashed past, making disgruntled sounds in the rain. When I opened the small sliding window beside the driver’s seat, the smell of wet, hot macadam rushed in to where we sat, filling the bus with summer.
Lightning flashed. Or was that a streetlight blinking out?
Then a quiet rustling through the curtain beside me. In the far reaches of my peripheral vision, out at the edge of a different galaxy, 2-year-old Sam had quietly walked to the front, pushed through the curtain that separates us from the back, and sat on the step beside my seat. He looked up through those huge pieces of glass, up through the rain, up at the forty-story office buildings with lights just blinking out.
Like a cricket in the forest looking up at the moon. Was there anything smaller than him in that entire city, looking up at its expanse? For a moment, he seemed like the center of it all.
Then, in a whisper, he said one word: