I'm looking out at a small sea of blonde, Anglo-American faces. They flutter around, cherubic, on the green lawns of Rogers Park. It's quiet out here, at the end of the 3 route, nestled in the comfortable affluence of upper Queen Anne.
Various parents and adult volunteers supervise the excited melee- the children look to be in the 6-8 range, and the game is a variation of no-contact football. This is Queen Anne; the proceedings are organized and considered. The children have uniforms, cheerful and immaculate, representing opposing teams. Streaks of blue and red, cavorting about on the aerated green expanse. I see the jubilant twinkles in their blue eyes, sunlight reflecting off their pale skin; everyone is white. The caretakers blow on their whistles, imposing order from underneath spotless baseball caps, sculpted bodies, and elegant jewelry.
But off in the corner, over by the margins of it all, there is something else. A young East African boy is playing alone, tossing a short stick in the air above him. He has no tailored uniform or blue tassle. None of the others go near him. He is alone, with his gray sweatshirt, no logo, and nondescript brown pants. Off to the side stands his father, watching.
The stick rises, each time farther above the boy's hands, spiraling in the air before dropping back into his grasp. His father stands with arms crossed, surveying the scene, certainly aware of the status dichotomy on display. I see the smile on the boy's face, and it is different from all the other smiles here today; his is a carefree purity that radiates, shining past any exclusion or judgment he might feel.
There is no hesitancy or worry about conforming to perceptions and rules, or frustration with peers, or confusion with...no, in him there is merely the undiluted joys of a simpler state, effervescent light made whole by his eyes and form, a joy unaware of itself. White teeth and eyes sparkling, picking up the stick from the grass for another throw.
I'm too distracted by what I perceive as a pathetic division of class status; the boy's father, if he isn't thinking the same, is probably regarding his son's safety; the others are preoccupied with following and making the rules of their game. Only the boy knows the elation he is feeling.
He is without artifice, unaffected, his actions unconsidered except by the irrepressible verve coursing out of him. He is unaware that he's being avoided or marginalized or looked at or ignored, and I am moved. He is alone, and he is happy. The stick rises and rises, higher, higher and higher, into the waning heavens.