And There Were Fireflies

The sun sort of stretched out to lie down after the Met and the Jewish Museum. The sun sort of yawned and pulled a cat-like claws-to-the-earth, tail-in-the-air stretch, tongue unfurling all the way, with those long lanky Abyssinian flanks quivering golden. The sun sort of flushed golden instead of red on Cleopatra’s Needle, and we wandered Central Park.

The profiles of skyscrapers peeped in through gaps in the trees, and Flamenco dancers stepped with poise within the shelter of the band shell. Forget the horse drawn carriages. Forget the ice cream carts, the throngs. Forget Shakespeare in the Park, the eager crowds already assembling. I was a child again not for any of these. I was eleven again for the fireflies.

I saw one blink on, then off, and slowly its neighbors awoke. Then there were five. Sixteen. Thirty faery flashes in the dimming dusk. I squealed and cupped my hand just under one, hoping she’d alight.

(My grandmother’s garden was a rich jungle of Japanese lanterns and tiger lilies. As daylight faded they were bronzed in the light, and then the pallor of the evening set in, and then a firefly blinked on, and then off. Slowly its neighbors awoke. Then there were five. Sixteen. Thirty. Eighty-two. A thousand tiny lights glimmering in the gathering dark.)

Six small legs rested on my fingertip, as the firefly rested. My friend and I leaned in to watch as she flashed on again in my hand.

(The whole garden was glowing and I held still, held my breath, waiting for the gates of Faery, waiting for it to stretch into eternity. It never came, it never opened, and I was packed up into a car by my parents and driven off to Connecticut, staring after sparks more numerous than stars.)

The glacial rocks, the grassy lawns all glittered in the twilight as the fireflies greeted each other. All I could do was stand there in two times, two places, holding a firefly on my fingertip and feel the tears behind my eyes.

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