Unexplained phenomena. That's what it was to me, running around in our shaggy crabgrass at dusk. One minute, I'd be gooofing around with a Frisbee, and the next, a glowing orb throbbed ever closer. Through the treeline, over the corn, taking the occasional surprise turn before turning back toward its obvious goal: me.
What it was, exactly, was a matter of speculation. A neighbor had told us of a terrible experience with lightening, chasing her out of the shower. I had heard of ball lightening. Perhaps, I reasoned, this was it, coming to get me now. This theory did not explain why I only saw it in the summer, so I formed the fireworks hypothesis. My mother felt very strongly that all fireworks were dangerous. She never even let us use sparklers, she was that serious. These unnatural terrors of eventide appeared around Independence Day, and what could be more fear-worthy that a firework's ability to have a rogue ember?
Ball lightening or killer sparkler, whatever. Its origins were of little consequence when it came to get me. I would try to stand tough, I would try to be brave. I would watch the little sucker, and pretend like I didn't care what he was up to, like my apathy would stop it from its attack, but this failed. I always returned to what I considered the only guaranteed approach to this enemy. I went where it never followed and ran hard toward the house.
My relationship to being outside at night in July remained until into my late twenties and I somehow put the whole thing together. Now that I am forty, and live in a spot rich with fireflies, I wonder why I had never heard of them, and what my parents thought when I came inside, wild-eyed and out of breath.
3 weeks ago