It’s cold out. Colder than Randy expects it to be. It’s been fall for a couple of weeks, but tonight, standing under that wide open sky, this is the first night he can really feel it.
He’s out in the yard, next to his dad’s pickup, which is still making pinging sounds from their trip home from the evening church service. That wide open sky, with stars that seem to shine even brighter in the cold air, begged him to stay.
His mom and dad are in the warmth of the house. They are back into the pattern--she walks to the kitchen, he sits in the living room chair. Lights, television, slippers. Soon they will go through the paces of getting ready for bed.
Randy is out. Nothing to do out here but let his mind be free. It has this whole expanse of sky, sprawling beyond the flat horizon in all directions, to contemplate.
Tonight at church, the minister talked about mission. Each person, he said, has a personal mission. A purpose, given to them by a personal God, who designed each of us to fulfill a specific part of His plan.
Randy looks up and wonders, What is my mission?
What am I supposed to do down here?
He stares at the powder of stars that spills across the sky, as though if he stares long enough, a pattern will emerge--a word, an image, maybe some kind of mathematical code written for him up there.
Instead, it’s just the deep velvety blackness, and all of these cold diamonds shining down.
He looks so deeply up into that sky, that all the rest of the world, the cars in the driveway, the outbuildings on the farm, even the horizon itself, all of it fades away and he loses himself in the sky.
At that moment, the space around him shifts, and he feels suddenly a little off balance. In his awareness, this sky that he looks at isn’t so much “up,” as he thought, with him safely planted on the earth.
It’s “out,” out there, right in front of him.
And he’s just standing here, a bit of dirt and spittle, on a giant ball of rock suspended in the vastness of space, tenuously held to the side with some little thing called gravity.
It's all so big and possible out there, so vast and terrifying--too big, maybe--and all he knows for a moment is the sensation of being about to fall off, flying unfettered out into the everything.
He stuffs his hands into the pocket of his thin jacket and pulls it closer to himself, hoping to shut out the sudden chill.
He looks down at his feet, his beat up sneakers nestled in the tall grass. He can feel them fighting to lift themselves off the ground.
With a sigh, he steals one last glance at his precious sky, as if to say goodnight, then heads back to the house.
His nighttime rituals await.