Author: Alex Z. Salinas
It was the 4:30 p.m. moon, clear as a piece of holy bread on a bright blue carpet, that led him—thinking on it much later, “led” was the only word he could come up with—to kneel down and scoop baseball field dirt into his palm. He then pulled out a scrap paper from his blue jean pocket, reread the “Yes” circled in pencil by Liliana Howard—her response to his asking her to be his girlfriend—then released the dirt onto the center of the paper. He folded it into a ball and, with all his might, threw the wad as hard as he could toward the unusual afternoon moon. Whether it was a strong gust of wind, God’s miracle, something else—his wayward imaginings—the paper ball flew, ziplined, rocketed, blasted toward the far-away rock known by ancient prophets. It disappeared, never seemed to fall, defied law. It was in this moment that the boy’s head was crudely struck, popped, cracked open by a ball—a flyball—punishment for not paying attention in the outfield. Backyard baseball was a game he’d never wanted part of, never enjoyed, and as fate had it, concussed him to a dark place, a shadow prison with its own terrifying logic and black magic.
When they released the image, the first picture ever taken, I texted Danny right away. How could I not?
Yo, this shit is crazy. Just like you predicted.
Two minutes later, he responded. Three emojis, zero words.
I couldn’t believe it. When word spread that a picture would be coming, Danny and I somehow got talking about it during a break. One way or another, he mentioned this crazy story about being hit in the head with a baseball and then already knowing what the black hole would look like, having seen it a long time ago. “There are things we know but have forgotten,” Danny said, “even things we’ve never seen,” I told Danny he was tripping like a motherfucker. I didn’t know the extent of his crazy.
Danny smiled, all creepy, but that made me believe him somehow. I had no choice. Had there been other dudes there, an audience, I’d have known Danny was fucking with me. With all of us. But no.
That’s the thing with certain people. Spend some time with them, nobody else around, and you realize later what they say to you comes with nothing attached. No strings. No stakes. Nada. Just straight-up talk. Shit that sticks in your head and rolls around, keeps you up at night, especially when you sleep alone.
Danny spent his whole life at first drawing, then painting, black circles with white, sometimes yellow or orange rings around them. He didn’t know why he painted them, didn’t understand the urge or force or what some call higher calling that “led” to his peculiar art. All Danny knew, better than his family history, better than the Bible, better than his three-year-old’s birthday, better than his cheating heart, were the rings. The rings. The black circles with light rings. He sold them, people liked them, hung the canvases on their bathroom walls, but he’d’ve painted them anyway.
April 10, 2019, the release date of the first image of a black hole, was just another day for Danny. As the world at large collectively gasped, shared on social media, talked around water coolers, Danny smiled.
They’d look back at his work later and say, Thief.
But Danny was cool. He knew. Another person knew.
One person is all you need.